Research 101 – Beyond Search Engines

Old school web users may remember the days of clunky web searches and incomplete results. That’s all changed in the past few years and search engines are now staples of daily web use. A lot of the time, however, you won’t find the best PR information with a standard search engine.

Media companies, looking to reap the benefits of the web, are closing off more of their content each day. A newspaper article may stay free to access for just a week, or sometimes, just a few days. Deep news searching now costs money, and whether it’s researching a sector, building press clips or simply conducting research into a product, you may have to pony up some dough to get the information you need.

In a previous Research 101, I wrote about search engines; today I’ve provided a list of fee-based search and research products, news search products and some reference products for your public relations research.
Fee-Based Search and Research Products

LexisNexis ( An expensive, yet worthwhile product for news and legal searches. Subscriptions are pricey, but there’s a pay-by-credit card, a la carte search that’s excellent if you’re willing to spend the money. Use this for “deep” search of old news articles. The biggest cause for concern here – excepting price – is that the product is sometimes buggy and you have to be pretty exact with your search terms. Worth mentioning: If you sign-up for the pay-as-you-go service and then go thirty days without using it at some point, you have to re-register.

Factiva ( Another expensive, but worthwhile “deep news” search tool. Factiva’s biggest problem is on the technology end – you get “timed out” a lot. I’m not sure why it’s so buggy, but it is. The product is definitely worth the money and they have a news monitoring product as well.

MyWire ( Worth the free, 30-day trial, if nothing else. For About $50 a year or $5 per month you get access to the archives for over 150 publications (magazines and newspapers) going back almost a dozen years. Good for deep researching or getting some missing press clips.
News Search Resources

Google News ( Like most of its products, Google’s news service is excellent.

Yahoo News ( Pretty close to being as good as Google News.

FindArticles ( This service is great for finding old press releases and articles from smaller trade magazines. Yahoo and Google’s news results are limited by time (only going back about three weeks or so usually), but FindArticles turns up some real old gems.

World News Network ( Although the search is sometimes buggy, World News is a very good news search engine that will return a lot of foreign publications as well. Before Google News, this was my default news search engine.

Note: Most search engines now have current news searches and they’re generally pretty good. But sometimes you need to dig deep to find articles from certain publications. Google News and World News are your best bet for all-encompassing news searches.
Reference Resources

Refdesk ( Refdesk is a great information gateway and time killer (for all that downtime you’ll have by doing proper research).

OneLook ( A fabulous dictionary search tool that will provide you with endless word definitions combed from traditional and specialty dictionaries (business, science, medical, technical, etc.). ( Simple interface and a solid product. Less comprehensive as OneLook, but easier to use and probably better suited for simple word searches.

Wikipedia ( We all know Wikipedia by now, but keep in mind that it is both good and bad. On one hand, it is a powerful and more timely tool than most encyclopedias.  On the other, it is user-generated and can contain dubious information.  It’s best not to take claims at face value: check the cited sources and follow up with your own research. ( Solid, no frills encyclopedia and it’s free!

Encyclopaedia Britannica ( Free trial, but pay if you want continue.
Specialty Reference Resources

TechWeb Encyclopedia ( An amazing resource for the tech and not so tech savvy. Keep this handy if you work with tech companies and need ideas on how to define products or the actual technologies. A great resource for anyone in tech.
Miscellaneous ( An interesting free service that allows you to read digitized versions of major daily print newspapers from around the world.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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