Dot.com workers are exchanging objectivity and accuracy for speed and convenience when it comes to online information on which to base business decisions.
A new survey, conducted for Hoover's Online Europe, appears to confirm fears that have been raised since the introduction of the Internet. Although the medium imposes fewer barriers obstructing access to information, it also provides fewer checks and balances on the accuracy and validity of that information.
The survey found that few dot.com workers are making vital checks and balances on the business information they obtain via the Internet.
The report found that dot.com workers "… are heavily reliant on information obtained from companies' own web sites and appear to be less aware of their shortcomings" (compared with mainstream "not.com" companies).
It also found… "The perceived dubious quality of some of the business information on the web does not carry much weight… with the majority of dot.com and mainstream business information seekers still trusting information on the web, and only a minority double-checking against other sources."
Hoover's Online Europe's managing editor Felice Hawley said, "At a time when many Internet companies are finding the economic climate tough, it's essential for staff to be as well informed as possible and to be careful of the dubious nature of some information available on the Internet.
"Many Internet users rely on the web sites of the companies they are researching. They are aware that information on these sites is biased, but only a few refuse to trust it.
Ms Hawley went on to say that that the apparent misuse of available information could also be due to the inexperience of many dot.com workers. The survey found that over half of dot.com workers using online business information were under 30, compared with nearly a third in "not.com" companies.
"Access to accurate and objective business information in Europe has traditionally been complicated and expensive," Ms Hawley said.
"So it's easy to understand why so many people in business find online information attractive. However, it appears that more dot.com workers need to beware of the pitfalls of information that has not been double checked."
The survey of over 150 people - from both traditional and dot.com industries - found:
- 39% of business information used by dot.coms is sourced from company web sites - as opposed to no more than a fifth coming from all other possible sources.
- Those working for dot.coms attach a much higher priority to using business information in their jobs - 78% agree with this (48% strongly agree), compared with 56% (and 17%) in mainstream companies
- 68% of dot.com staff who seek information believe individual company web sites give a truthful and honest account of each company's activities
- But seven in ten of these dot.com workers accept that a company's own website is usually biased
- Over half of all business information seekers say business information on the Internet is sometimes of dubious quality…
- But only 15% say they don't trust it
- More than half of business information seekers in dot.com companies are under 30, compared with nearly a third in mainstream companies
- 45% believe individual companies' web sites are not always kept up to date
- 51% believe company web sites do not always give a complete account of the company and its activities
This research took place in September and October 2000. MORI conducted 151 telephone interviews with business information seekers - 50 in dot.coms (defined as companies where most business transactions are done electronically over the web) and 101 in mainstream companies (with 100+ employees). Dot.coms were drawn from three lists of the top internet companies in the UK.