Performing searches for information today is still a mess. Sure, Google is a great start-point for general information. Yahoo does a great job of giving us search results for commercial queries as well, but pinpointing information about a small company, or the history of a company is generally a tough proposition.
I blame this on the multitude of newspaper companies out there that aren’t listening to their readers needs.
Take this example:
I’m flying to Salt Lake City next week to visit a client… but I’m new to my company, and this relationship, so I don’t have a whole lot of history on this client.
So, I visit their website, to try to learn more about them prior to visiting them. Since they’re a private company, I’m pretty much stuck with reading their Press Releases, which are 95% PR and 5% information. The Press Releases talk about data soft-information… nothing hard about the management of this company, their business needs and goals, or their past success or failures (Contrast that with a public company who at least has to release financial data once a quarter, usually with guidance as well – which can sometimes help you learn more about their business goals in a quick and easy manner).
So, I go to Google and search various different ways to try and find some historical information on this company… I find plenty of references to them online, but in a quick cursory glance (10 – 15 minutes of searching), I don’t find a lot of useful information that anwers my needs.
But, I did find a link to an article that was published by the local newspaper in their city, so I click on that link.
Crap, it’s one of those newspapers that disables pages on their website that are older than 7 days, and moves that content off to an “archive data” provider. So, I’m presented with a “That page has been archived, please search here for that story in our archives” page.
So, I search. And, sure enough there aren’t any articles from the past 7 days with the company name I’m looking for. Then I realize that I just searched through the “free – past 7 days” archive, not through their more extensive paid archive.
So, I search in that search box — and nothing. The search box doesn’t work in Firefox.
Crap, so I fire up Internet Explorer, copy the URL, and search again and I find an except of the story I want to read. Cool, now I’m getting somewhere. I click on that URL. I’m asked to login as a registered user. Ok, I dig it, I’m paying for this article, so I’m happy to register. But, I don’t have a lot of time today, and since I’ve spent 30 minutes at this process already, and I have another meeting in an hour that I really need to prepare for while I eat lunch, I’ll table this until tomorrow, or tonight when I’m at the airport, and we’ll see if I can’t find some more information from a free source, before I go back to paying for the article.
I really wish newspapers did a better job of serving up their valuable content to me through search engines.
What should have happened is that I should have searched Google or Yahoo or whatever, gotten a page that was potentially useful, clicked the link, been told that the article was archived, and that I could pay for access to that article. I should have been able to click on a link from that page that took me straight through the “purchase” process, and to the article I wanted.
I’d pay $5 or $10 for that article (today) if it worked that seamlessly and didn’t take that much time.
I paid $4 to have a librarian at the Houston library find a copy of my father’s obituary from 1989 in their microfiche, make a copy of it, and mail it to me. She said she’d try to find it, when I placed the order over the phone with her, and if she didn’t find it she’d call me back to ask more questions about where it might be found (I knew the date of publication and the page it was printed on from the Houston Chronicle’s archive search – they don’t have those old papers available online today). She also said if she couldn’t find it, there’d be no charge. Why can’t I do that online? Her attention to my needs and service quality was worth much more than $4 (I called a week later and donated $100 to their charity support fund because I was so pleased with her service).
Ugh… Searching for information on newspaper’s websites is still a pain today (it’s 2005 people – get with the program). And this one newspaper’s website is the norm, not the exception. I wish they’d all do a better job of it.