A "Hidden" Guide to the Business Web

Like an underground mine filled with hidden treasures, one of the best business-oriented information resources is buried deep within a popular magazine's web site.

Many SearchDay readers are familiar with the magazine Business 2.0. It's one of the survivors of a relatively new crop of magazines focusing on the high-tech "new economy," and I often include links to interesting Business 2.0 stories in the headlines section of this newsletter.

What you may not know is that the magazine's web site also contains a fantastic, information-rich web guide. "We realize that it's one of the best kept secrets online," said Bonnie Kroll, Web Guide Director for Business 2.0.

The guide was created and is maintained by a team of professional research librarians, who have been working on it for about two years. The Web Guide was built from scratch, with each link hand-selected by staff members. It's organized into about 13,000 topics, with links to more than 50,000 web pages.

Though that may seem like a small fraction of the web, the focus is on quality over quantity. "Our purpose has never been to be a comprehensive directory," said Kroll. "We realize that the business user has very limited time."

The decision to limit the Guide to sites selected by people rather than an automated crawler was based on experience. Before coming to Business 2.0, Kroll and several other Web Guide staffers were with Infoseek, the long lost search engine and directory that was a favorite of many searchers during its heyday.

"We were able to learn from the mistakes that Infoseek had made over the years," said Kroll. "We saw the folly of Infoseek's dabbling with machine intelligence rather than human intelligence trying to select sites."

The Web Guide also differs from other business-oriented directories in its structure. "We envisioned a directory to be almost three dimensional, with different interfaces to get at the same information," said Kroll. For example, parts of the directory are organized from an industry view, others from business function point of view, and still others from the perspective of important people in the business world.

"We're not constrained like a traditional directory," said Kroll. "We try to have these sections that almost go out of the box that are particularly helpful for people that find information online."

Kroll says that the Business 2.0 Web Guide does not and will not accept paid listings, despite being owned by the highly profit oriented conglomerate AOL/Time Warner. "The sacred policy of division between church and state -- editorial and ads -- translates to the directory," said Kroll, maintaining that this is essential to assure quality control.

Kroll cites Yahoo as a case where accepting paid listings may have an impact on the user's experience. "It's difficult for the user to know what companies are in there because they're good or because they've paid," she said.

The Web Guide is updated constantly, with a particular emphasis on supporting the editorial content of the magazine, as well as resources that help searchers keep up with breaking news.

This is particularly noticeable when you search for information on specific companies. Search results include both Web Guide Search results, and article search results. Web Guide links generally include links for preconfigured searches on other sites, such as corporate profiles, financials, SEC filings, analyst estimates and so on. You can almost use this as a clipping service, says Kroll.

With all of these great offerings, it's a shame that the Business 2.0 Web Guide has such an anonymous profile on the web. The company is in the process of completing a redesign that should make it more visible, including a new home page interface to the guide that will debut in mid-February.

Meanwhile, take a look via the link below. The Business 2.0 Web Guide is a worthy addition to any searcher's online toolkit.

Business 2.0 Web Guide

Other business search resources covered in SearchDay:

Super Searchers Cover the World
SearchDay, December 6, 2001
In Super Searchers Cover the World, some of the world's best international business researchers share tips, techniques and secrets that help you avoid being a stranger in a strange land.

Getting Down to Business.com
SearchDay, November 7, 2001
Business.com was once best known for spending an all-time record $7.5 million for its domain name. Today, it has quietly become one of the web's most substantial and useful resources for business research and information.

Portal B Means Business
SearchDay, May 10, 2001
Portal B from Data Downlink Corporation is a focused web directory designed for business researchers who typically work in information intensive industries, such as banking, consulting, law, accounting and asset management, or large corporations.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.