Tapping Into The Information Superhighway’s Resources

You still insist on using the phone or a fax when electronic mail
would be more efficient. You still journey to the library to
conduct research when you could do it on-line from your desk. You
still confer with colleagues only at annual conventions instead
of keeping up with them every few days.

Perhaps this approach works for you, but chances are that
your competitors, customers and colleagues are making use of the
information superhighway’s vast resources to do business more
effectively and efficiently than is possible by clinging to the
soon-to-be outmoded technologies and practices you continue to
favor.

A resource as massive as the Internet offers something for
virtually every business – and much, much more, which can prove a
drawback. For example, while it may be enjoyable to spend the day
on-line reading the lyrics to every TV sitcom theme song of the
1970s, it’s not very productive in terms of strengthening a
company’s bottom line. With this caveat in mind, if you haven’t
yet ventured on-line because you aren’t sure how much of what it
has to offer is really valuable to you, think about these
valuable reasons for doing so.

Communication

More businesses use electronic mail than any other application of
the Internet. E-mail offers the ability to send communication to
anyone with an Internet address faster than express mail and less
expensively than a post card. Most service providers offer
unlimited free e-mail, regardless of whether you are sending
messages to the next office or another hemisphere.

E-mail has made it possible for many entrepreneurs to turn
their computers into virtual offices. Often working at home,
users can send articles, reports or information via e-mail to
bosses, co-workers or clients at their homes or desks — as
quickly as a phone call — to almost anywhere in the world.

Research

While e-mail is the most popular business application of the
Internet, research is a close second. With millions of documents
on the World Wide Web and thousands of topic-specific newsgroups
from which to choose, the Internet is destined to become the
library of the future. Firms are using the Internet to research
companies and products and maintain relationships with peers in
their industries.

Business research resources on the Web are becoming more
comprehensive every day. More than 35,000 companies have a
presence there, making it possible for users to research a
potential customer, vendor or competitor quickly and
conveniently.

People are also using newsgroups to keep up with the latest
events and information in their field of expertise. Newsgroups
are electronic gathering places where those with similar business
or personal interests can talk on-line. Although the information
contained in newsgroups can be hit and miss, some of the more
professional newsgroups are full of valuable data on the topics
you care about.

To join a newsgroup, simply send a message asking to
subscribe. Then whenever someone posts a message to the group,
you automatically receive a copy via e-mail. You can ignore the
messages, read them, write back or post messages of your own.

Sales

Almost all companies with World Wide Web presences are
advertising their products or services, or actually taking orders
on-line. From a commercial standpoint, the Web is quickly
becoming a viable marketing tool; blatant advertising is
perfectly acceptable, and many businesses have set up
multidimensional Web pages featuring product catalogs, service
descriptions and order forms.

And, with the advent of more formidable security devices,
companies are turning their Web pages into 24-hour virtual stores
that can advertise products, answer customer questions, and take
orders directly over the Internet. The Internet offers access to
a truly global market; the potential customer base for your
product or service is as diverse as it is gigantic.

Turning a Yellow Page on Technology

The old adage goes that you sell the sizzle, not the steak. So
imagine the mouth-watering possibilities if a reader looking at
your restaurant’s ad on the electronic Yellow Pages could
actually hear the steak sizzling while looking over your
extensive wine list and surveying a panoramic view of the dining
room.

Yellow Pages advertising is literally golden for local small
businesses, and will be for many years to come. Soon, however,
publishers may be able to help advertisers complement their
listings with electronic images and sound to further entice
customers: full-color menus, a hardware store’s up-to-the-minute
inventory list, or a bakery’s order form could all be within easy
reach.

Firms with their own World Wide Web sites can, of course,
include their electronic address in printed advertising. In
addition, Yellow Pages publishers are currently examining how
they can provide their own services on-line, opening cyberspace
to businesses that otherwise wouldn’t go electronic.

The Yellow Pages Publishers Association is studying how best
to make use of the new electronic gadgetry (that, so far, includes
pictures and sound but not the ability to let the viewer smell
that sizzling steak). Although different publishers are trying
out a few configurations, no trends are emerging yet. “There’s
really not an industry standard,” comments Bob Zink, the
association’s systems manager.

Some early efforts have simply placed the text of
advertising listings into an electronic format — not a promising
choice, says Jack Mueller, vice president of Cincinnati Bell
Directory. “If we were only transferring the advertising to a
different medium, we wouldn’t be taking advantage of the inherent
value,” he adds. On the other hand, it would be quite an
undertaking to create an electronic advertisement, complete with
pictures and sound, for each of the 40,000 Cincinnati Bell Yellow
Pages advertisers, notes Mueller.

That’s particularly true because electronic advertising
still reaches relatively few consumers, although it seems that
more people are going on-line every day. Electronic Yellow Pages
will have to demonstrate that they can beef up business enough to
justify their expense.

Numerous technical and financial questions remain to be
resolved, and a useful organizational structure for on-line
Yellow Pages is necessary. Zink says it is conceivable that a
user anywhere in the country could look up a master Yellow Pages
site, then click to the locale of interest, which would open up
the Yellow Pages to new users. Suburban residents could look over
a few downtown restaurants, for example, subsequently clicking a
button to make a reservation. Tourists and business travelers
could find airport shuttles, hotels and entertainment. Helpful
features such as this might well provide the economic incentive
necessary to create advertiser demand for an electronic
counterpart to the venerable Yellow Pages book.
_________________________________________________________________

AN ON-LINE BUSINESS TRIP: PRIME INFORMATION LOCATIONS

One frustration many new on-line users experience is the feeling
that they are spending too much time surfing marginally useful
sites on the Internet. In reality, it takes practice and some
help to become proficient and make the most of this global
resource. Here is a road map of some prime business information
locations:

Internet for Beginners

* Easy Internet:
http://www.futurenet.co.uk/netmag/Issue1/Easy/index.html. The
complete Internet beginner’s guide.

* Glossary of Internet Terms:
http://www.matisse.net/files/glossary.html. Offers an easy-to-
understand list of definitions.

* Internet Beginners Directory:
http://www.globalcenter.net/gcweb/tour.html. Takes people on a
tour of the Internet.

* Internet Mall: http://www.mecklerweb.com/imall/ This service
offers everything from computer hardware and software to
personal and professional services.

* Unofficial Internet Booklist:
http://www.eff.org/pub/Net_info/Resources/net_book.list.
Contains a complete bibliography of books about the Internet.

Searching by Subject

* Yahoo: http://www.yahoo.com/ A good starting place
(especially for beginners) for browsing the Web.

* InfoSeek Search: http://www2.infoseek.com. A very reliable
Web searching tool that is usually thorough and fast.

* Lycos Home Page: http://lycos.cs.cmu.edu

* WebCrawler: http://webcrawler.com

* W3 search engines: http://cuiwww.unige.ch/meta-index.html.
This more advanced tool is not recommended for beginners.

* CUSI (Configurable Unified Search Interface):
http://web.nexor.co.uk/susi/cusi.html. Like the W3 engines, it
can search multiple databases.

Marketing

* The Capra Project: http://www.dnai.com/~camp/ A good net
resource for marketing and advertising.

* MarketWise: http://www.emporiumone.om/MarketWise/index.html. A
marketing resource designed for computer businesses with some
good general information.

Finances

* Best of Investment:
http://nearnet.gnn.com/gnn/meta/finance/res/invest.subjects.
html Contains information to help you make investment
decisions.

* Bank Rate Monitor: http://bankrate.com. Checks lending and
deposit rates at U.S. banks.

* Bank CD Rate Scanner: http://www.wimsey.com/~emandel/

* BankCD.html Checks certificate of deposit rates at U.S. banks
and includes tips on long-distance banking.

Foreign Trade

* Small Business Exporters Association:
http://www.sbea.com/sbea.html Contains good information for
exporters including a guide to some legislation.

* National Trade Data Bank: http://www.stat-usa.gov A “one-
stop” source for export information compiled by the U.S.
Commerce Department.

* National Technical Information Services (NTIS):
http://www.fedworld.gov This agency of the U.S. Commerce
Department publishes trade data and forecasts.

* North American Free Trade Agreement:
http://www.tpusa.com/nafta/nafta.facts/nafta.desk.html. A
guide to NAFTA.

Small Business Organizations

* Small Business Administration: http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/
The SBA’s home page features information on finances, starting
your own business and other matters.

* Small Business Advancement National Center:
http://www.sbanet.uca.edu/ Another good resource for small
businesses.

* National Association of Women Business Owners:
http://www.ascolta.com/nawbo.html

Taxes and Securities

* Internal Revenue Service:
http://www.ustreas.gov/treasury/bureaus/irs/irs.html. Includes
instructions on tax forms.

* SEC’s Edgar: http://www.sec.gov/edgarhp.htm. The Securities
and Exchange Commission service for filing and reviewing
disclosure forms on-line.

Government Regulation

* Government Resources: http://iridium.nttc.edu/gov_res.html. An
extensive directory of government agencies and resources,
including data and reports.

* Marvel: gopher://marvel.loc.gov:70/11/federal/fedinfo. This is
a gopher site that allows access to some government agencies,
libraries and a lot of general information.

Technology

* Center for Technology and Small Business Development:
http://153.91.1.141

Environmental

* U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov

Computer Software and Services

* Free Software: The Oakland University Archives:
http://www.aracnet.com/shareware.html. Has extensive
collections of both Mac and PC software.

* Winworld: http://coyote.csusm.edu/cwis/winworld/winworld.html.
A good source for Windows software.

* Webster’s Dictionary: http://c.gp.cs.cmu.edu:5103/prog/webster
Enables users to look up words on-line.

* Dictionary of Computing: http://wombat.doc.ic.ac.uk. Site of
computer-related terms.

* Federal Express Home Page: http://www.fedex.com. Provides
access to tracking software and allows on-line tracking of
packages.



Posted by on February 21, 1999