FOCUS: INTERNET; Cyberspace - the final frontier

Don’t panic! This beginners’ guide to the on-line galaxy makes hooking up to the Worldwide Web as easy as giving up beefburgers

Don’t panic! This beginners’ guide to the on-line galaxy makes hooking

up to the Worldwide Web as easy as giving up beefburgers

Lost in cyberspace - every Web user knows the phenomenon. There is

simply so much disordered information in there, that often you can’t see

the wood for the trees. It can be hard enough finding yourway around a

private network like Compuserve, never mind the big, bad Internet. The

metaphor applies equally to the technology choices you have to make when

considering an investment.

The essential tools for navigating the Internet are search engines and

indexes. If you haven’t discovered the best ones yet, we suggest that

you try those we recommend below. Sites often also have ‘hotlists’,

which can be very useful. Also, buy a few of those awfully trendy

Internet magazines.

After that, you’re on your own - but try to get in on the chat groups

where journalists and PRs talk together. There are at least two such on

the private networks owned by CIX and Compuserve.

It is vital to remember that information on the Internet can be very

selective, dominated by a something-for-nothing culture among its users.

Even if you found everything on a subject on the Internet, you might

miss the vital facts.

If you want all the information at your fingertips, and have it dished

out to you on a plate, you would be best advised to pay for it, and to

use additional sources of information.

Most PR staff are already acquainted with cuttings services and the

dial-up subscription databases. What is happening in these areas is the

introduction of services delivered via the Internet.

Many cuttings agencies are starting to deliver their services via the

Internet. For example, David Fuller, director of the Red Consultancy, is

expecting to get daily cuttings more cheaply, more quickly, and more

conveniently via the Internet in the near future.

The newest offering in the database area is a new-style service called

the Profound database, from MAID. It is strongly recommended by Argyll’s

Sally Costerton ‘for those PRs who are already well up the chain in

terms of using this sort of information’. And, before you say it, no,

Argyll is not their PR agency, Michael Joyce Consultants is.

The up-front subscription is...gulp...pounds 6,000, but then you have

access to many of the world’s top reports and news services such as

Reuters, through a single indexing system, delivered via the Internet.

The price is on a par with Reed-Elsevier’s Lexis/Nexis and other

database services, but the competitive edge is the indexing, consistent

interface, and Internet delivery. You can read the indexes to pages of

reports, and just pay for the bits you want.

So if you only want one table out of a pounds 2,000 Frost and Sullivan

report, you only pay a couple of quid for it. There is also an

‘alert’service where you can choose key companies to watch out for, and

the system notifies you by e-mail whenever some new material becomes


Okay, so you can’t afford it. Further down the feeding chain is the

Target service, which delivers the Financial Times group’s AFX-Extel

news service by e-mail, four times a day. You can choose up to three out

of 30 categories for a pounds 15 per month subscription fee.

And why not try Dow Jones’ money and investing update? There’s stacks of

information, and pointers to more details. The service has 290,000

registered users and is still rising. All they want in return is some

personal details, and to show you a few advertisments (see the web

address in the panel).

Let’s also stand back a little. Drilling down into the detail of the

Internet is one thing, but as we know, the Internet is only one channel,

and not everyone has the same ideas about where it is going.

Sooner or later, we are all faced with decisions about investing in new

technology, in terms of buying hardware or software, or devoting

resources to publishing information in one form or another. So where

will you find the independent advice on that?

Two sources of information may prove helpful. First, the PRCA is working

with Countrywide Communications and The Association of British Editors

on a project called PROBE. This is simply a forum for the parties to

talk about what their short and medium term plans are for investing in

electronic media, of which the Internet is just one facet. For example,

digital storage and transmission of pictures require a big investment in

hardware and training - but when do you take the plunge, and which

technologies are the press converging on?

Second source of information is Mediabase. This blueprint for electronic

publishing is a research project run by Leatherhead-based PIRA

International, in conjunction with the Newspaper Society, and the

Periodical Publishers Association. The project is focusing on case

studies, budgeting and calculating costs, business models for

advertising, design issues, useage patterns and demographics and

readership profiles.

There are also PR and marketing-related discussion groups, which are

accessible to anyone who has e-mail. Expect to find an American bias.

For example, you can join the PRFORUM group (and get information about

how to resign) by e-mailing: list containing the

message subscribe prforum yourfirstname yourlastname and leave the

subject line blank. Then you will start to receive copies of the e-mail

other people have sent to the group and can start to add your own input.

You can also find out about similar groups by looking up the Impulse

Research Corporation website mentioned in the panel.

Beginners’ guide: Sites to see

This selection is only a sample, not a comprehensive listing of PR

relevant sites. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in this list,

then the search engines and indexes at the top are the best places to

help you find what you do want.

If you can’t stand all that typing, then visit this temporary PR Week

web page:

...and all the URLs below will be sitting there for you simply to click

on them.

Indexes and search engines




Yahoo’s business index to PR pages is an important jumping-off point. It

is the biggest index on the web, and it comes complete with its own

search engine as well.

Digital’s site includes probably the best search engine on the web, a

big database with a very fast response. Apart from company information,

this site includes useful statistics on the Internet at large.

A search engine called Global On-line Directory with a European bias,

worth trying as a complement to Alta Vista

If you don’t have a web browser, you can still track all the Internet

newsgroups for key words (and retrieve the messages on request) by using

the Stanford NetNews Filtering service. Send the message help netnews

to: and leave the subject lineblank. You will

receive instructions on how the service works. worldlib/media.htm

Links to the world’s media. Very comprehensive listing of newspapers and

broadcasters with web pages, from Aftonbladet to Die Welt.

Best PR interest sites


US-based service, part of Impluse Research Corporation, listing 220 PR

Agencies and 100 additional resource links, including listserver

discussion groups (based on e-mail, and including advertising, marketing

and PR groups). UK is in the ‘Yoorp’ section.

NEWSdesk is a focus point for European IT PR, working towards a multi-

lingual service. Some parts are closed unless you register. But if you

do happen to have an alter ego chairman Graeme Radcliffe built the

service from his International Press Marketing Group database of

European IT journalists, and won the DTI Innovation Award for it in

1994. You can also see (or will soon) picture and video libraries.


Edelman’s website which dates back to January 1995 (early days for the

Internet) includes company and client information as well as a global

directory of Edelman agencies and summary of today’s headlines.

Firefly Communications got off to a good start with these client

information web pages. With several pages for each of 33 clients, and

links to client’s own web pages, this is a sprawling site which will

become much more useful soon, with the addition of a search tool to help

navigate the fast-growing offering. Firefly also put Compaq and Apple

on to the Newsdesk service mentioned above. And four out of the

company’s 37 staff are now devoted to electronic media.

Set up for Friends of the Earth running the Newbury bypass campaign. How

else would you get mail to people living in trees? Also, find out who

is your nearest local group organiser by entering your full postcode (is

that an unspoken invitation to receive direct mail?) or sign up

immediately with online credit card subscription.


Shell UK Exploration and Production’s bid to encourage informed debate

by launching the Brent Spar into cyberspace. ‘The events of last year

taught us a great deal, particularly about how we communicate and listen

to concerns,’ says decommissioning manager Eric Faulds.

Comprehensive company information, and clever graphics that change every

time you look designed by Spiderworx. The Shandwick Sourcefinder is a

special resource for journalists, directing them to spokespersons on

various topics. Unfortunately the password protection system continues

to defeat this bona fide journalist.

The technology PR agency’s survey of web users and debate on use of the

Internet is interesting. Also look out for Thunderhouse page which

launches this week with advice on use of new media.

The site is still under construction and many of its facilities such as

discussion groups, will be reserved for medical journalists or health

service executives. There are, however, the obligatory company

backgrounders, job adverts and links to other sites.

America’s biggest wire service, run by Associated Press, was being given

a facelift when we visited it - maybe something shiny and new to see by

the time you read this.

Two-Ten Communications updates a copy of its newswire on the Internet

site every two minutes, and gets 30, 40 or sometimes up to 65 ‘hits’ a

day from journalists searching for information. Useful for when they are

working at home, away from the newswire screen. Currently developing a

topic and company search engine, plus hotlinking to other agency and PR

relevant sites.

PiMS - an intriguing rumour says that PiMS is about to sign a technology

deal to make its Internet service ‘push, not pull’. Suspicion is that

this will mean using e-mail to send out material, but also making sure

that the receiver can read whatever they’re sent.

The PA News Centre is open to everyone, and you can send challenges to

other archivists like: who was the first Essex man?.

PR Society of America’s large and comprehensive web site. The UK’s IPR,

whose Two-Ten Communications sponsored-site will be on the Internet

soon, assures us that theirs will be ‘less boring’.


Medialink’s VNR classroom includes downloadable video, cardinal rules of

video production, tips for television station relations, guidelines on

VNR production as well as a guide to related Internet sites.

The PRCA’s site launched in mid-March contains a list of members and

contact details, info on PRCA services and referral systems.

Essential on-line reading

Editor & Publisher has adopted an interesting approach to page design

which you will either love or hate. Editorial content is right on the


Dow Jones business news publication has a team of 30 journalists

dedicated to maintaining this ‘money and investing update’.

FutureNet, producer of European Internet and computer magazines such, claims to be one of the most visited sites in Europe, and is

raking in the advertising revenue from it.

Interactivity, key to successful web sites

FedEx site adds value to service by allowing you to track the progress

of your parcel either on-line,or at one remove by e-mail. It will also

put you in touch with some free software related to shipping parcels.

Get an on-line mortgage quote from Cheltenham and Gloucester based on

your income and regular outgoings. This site also supplies you with

guides to different types of mortgages, literature about moving house

and all the other useful information that (some) building societies can

pile on potential home buyers, right down to a page carrying the small

print. rsedc/personality/

Answer 60 radio button ‘either/or’ questions and get back a

devastatingly correct personality analysis (the Keirsey Temperament

Sorter). Better still, get job applicants to do it!

Buy one of up to 3.5 million tickets online... if you happen to have a

US postal address. How parochial of them.

Paid-for services

Find out more about Profound, the information supermarket. See box for

more information.

E-mail delivery of the Financial Times group’s AFX-Extel news service,

at four intervals every business day. You can choose up to three from 30

categories. As an added bonus you also get a one-week free trial.

How to swap formatted documents

Adobe Acrobat reader is some handy free software, which allows people

using different sorts of computers to transfer formatted documents from

one to another, and makes on-screen reading much easier.

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