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With most media companies and information publishers now fully embracing the Internet as a distribution channel, the Internet has emerged as today's most effective tool for marketing professionals to gather news, market intelligence and “buzz” (consumer insight) about companies, products and business issues.

News: Today, most news is published first on the Internet. Most news organizations publish more content on the Internet than in their traditional print publication or broadcast. Most news organizations also maintain archives of past news articles as part of their Web site.

Market Intelligence: Commercial, academic and government Web sites provide ready access to key data about most any company or product.

Otherwise hard-to-find corporate or product information is almost always available somewhere on the Internet. That information is for the most part remarkably up to date; information gems are out there on the Internet waiting to be mined by marketing professionals to gain competitive advantage.

Buzz: The Internet is also where “buzz” starts about companies, products and issues. It is where you can readily find reviews, opinions, and consumer insights, providing key competitive intelligence on product strengths and deficiencies, pricing issues, customer service problems, rumors, attacks and scams, reputation issues, and distribution channel concerns.

That “buzz” consists of straight-from-the-heart consumer opinion with straightforward, unabashed language--unfettered by traditional interviewing processes.

News, information and “buzz” gleaned from the Internet becomes a powerful intelligence tool to identify and correct problems with products or corporate policies, to identify changes in brand perception, to spot marketplace trends, and to anticipate moves by competitors. Its breadth of coverage, timeliness, and ability to deliver consumer insight make Internet monitoring more effective than old-fashioned press clipping services, which often miss key articles, take weeks to deliver clips, and don't include vital resources available only on the Internet.

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Bill Comcowich is president and CEO of CyberAlert (www.cyberalert.com) and has been developing and producing interactive multimedia communications programs for Fortune 500 companies for over 20 years and has 10 years of experience in public relations.