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The Internet Public Relations Jungle

by Glen Emerson Morris
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In a way never possible before, the Internet has allowed millions of people to write electronic letters that are read by millions of people. There are over seven thousand different discussion groups (called newsgroups) on the Internet, and nearly everything that can be discussed, is discussed. The Internet may have been originally designed to share scientific and military information, but now it's sharing the day to day life experience of millions of people.

Increasingly, consumers are using the Internet as an information source for decision making about everything from what movies to see, to what cars to buy. For millions, it's the repository of all current folk wisdom about life in the modern world, and it is believed because it is based on direct experience.

The Internet has become the public's equivalent of the credit rating services, except the information shared is about products and businesses, and there are fewer safeguards.

Positive feedback on the Internet can alert potential customers to products that advertising campaigns missed, and provide businesses with invaluable and inexpensive data about who's really buying their products, and why. Negative feedback, warranted or not, can offset millions of dollars in advertising and goodwill.

Monitoring the Internet for feedback isn't easy. Most of the 7,000+ discussion groups average over 100 postings each, counting the initial letters and all responses to them, so the total number of consumer communications at any time on the Internet easily exceeds half a million, and every day thousands of new postings are made, and thousands of older postings eliminated.

The least expensive way to monitor Internet postings, is to simply buy access to the Internet and look in the most appropriate user groups on a regular basis. Internet service would cost between twenty to fifty dollars a month.

The only economical way to search all of the 500,000+ postings on the Internet is to use a "search engine" like Apple's AppleSearch. By creating an index of every word in each of the 500,000+ postings, AppleSearch allows every occurrence of any word to be found, immediately. AppleSearch will even rank the files it finds on the basis of word proximity, so that the phrases "advertising regulations" and "Colorado" could be used to find articles about advertising regulations in Colorado, even if the words were not next to each other in the article.

However, this using AppleSearch also requires downloading the entire 500,000+ files to a hard disk, a process likely to take several hours. Businesses not wanting to tie up a phone line that long every day have the option of receiving newsgroup feeds by satellite. Essentially a small satellite dish is plugged into your computer and phone lines are avoided completely. The system is priced around $500 with monthly service priced about the same as basic cable service. This system is particularly useful in areas with no Internet access or unreasonably expensive access.

It may seem like a lot of trouble to go through, but it is unavoidable. There is no way to avoid being mentioned on the Internet, and there is no way to ignore it.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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