Don't Get Caught in the WebBy: Linda Formichelli
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
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