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Don't Get Caught in the Web

By: Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli (e-mail) is a copywriter and magazine writer based in Massachusetts.  She's written for more than 45 magazines and for such corporate clients as Bay State Gas, Pizzeria Uno, Performance Printing and AFC Cable Systems.  Linda holds a Master's degree from U.C. Berkeley.

Last week I needed to find a party and paper retailer to interview about their advertising program. So I did what any computer literate writer would do--I turned to the Internet.

First I did a search for retail discussion groups and posted a request for interviewees to all appropriate forums. Then I looked up "party supplies," linked to every site that came up, and e-mailed my request to those stores that had e-mail addresses. Finally, I checked out sites for retail trade magazines, hoping to find more discussion groups and links. Convinced I'd exhausted every resource at my disposal, I congratulated myself on my ingenuity and thoroughness and moved on to my next task. Time elapsed (not including back-patting): two hours.

Yesterday, desperate after getting no response from my e-mails and posts, I looked up "Party Supplies" in the local Yellow Pages, called the first number listed and got my interview. Time elapsed: twenty minutes.

According to NEC Research in Princeton, NJ, people who rely on search engines get only a fraction of the available information on the Internet. The most thorough search engine, HotBot, covers only 34% of the Internet's 320 million pages of information. So by relying solely on the Internet, not only are we ignoring the wealth of real-world information that hasn't made it online--we're also missing more than half of the information that is online due to the vagaries of Internet search engines.

As is obvious from my time-consuming trip around the Net to find one party and paper retailer, our desire to feel techno-savvy sometimes causes us to immediately log on to the Internet even when there are faster and more obvious resources available in our homes, offices and local libraries--such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, periodical guides and phone books.

So what if you've got a deadline crashing through the gate and you need data for that report post haste? Take your Internet search engine results with a grain of salt--and remember that the real world is sometimes quicker and always more comprehensive than the Internet can ever be.

© Copyright 1999, Linda Formichelli

Other Articles by Linda Formichelli

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