Putting the Internet to Work for You:
20 Must-Have Links for Your Online Research

In an interview found in "Who's Mailing What's Million Dollar Mailing", Master Copywriter Gene Schwartz was asked what he considered to be the most important characteristics of a copywriter. Schwartz said "Indefatigability, clarity, craziness, and humanity…when I talk about indefatigability, I mean that copywriting is research; it has something I call "claim density." It's packed with facts, with information, with ideas. You can't get that without doing research."

And when asked if he had any special techniques he uses to get ideas he replied, "Yes, research. When I write copy for a book, I generally know more about the book than the editor."

As an AWAI member you already understand the importance of good research and with the abundance of information readily available on the Internet today there's no excuse for not doing your homework. Nearly everything you want to know is already known. The problem is finding it and making sure it's accurate. Here are 20 websites every copywriter should have for their research library.

For general research (on just about anything), use …

  • Google
    Google is the largest search engine out there. If you know what you're looking for, simply go to it, type in your keywords, and filter through the responses. Google also has a directory with listings to all the major news and government sites such as The New York Times, CNN, and the Supreme Court. Simply click on the "News and Resources" link at the bottom of their homepage for a complete listing.
  • AskJeeves.com
    If you don't know exactly which keywords to search in order to get the information you need, go to Ask Jeeves and ask for what you're looking for in the form of a question (e.g., "Why is the sky blue?"). You can also find out what other people are searching for on askjeeves by clicking on the "what are people asking"
  • Howstuffworks.com
    Fellow copywriter Don Pagan turned us on to this site. It features information on (you guessed it!) how stuff works – everything from boomerangs to aspirin to 401k plans.

For a variety of facts and figures, try these …

  • USA.gov
    This site is great for researching Federal/State laws and statistics. It has a link to the U.S. Census reports, the Constitution, and even contact information for government agencies and directories.
  • CIA World Fact Book
    You can search this site (the CIA World Fact Book) for specific countries to find out everything from current environmental issues to how the government is set up to communication and transportation information.
  • Neilsen Media
    This is the website for the famous Nielsen Ratings reports. To access many of the reports, you have to buy them online – but you can view Nielsen's News Reports free under the "news" button on the left navigation bar. That's where you'll find answers to questions like "How many people watched the World Cup this year?" or "What are this year's advertising rates as compared with last year?"

To find financial information, financial writers/master copywriters Porter Stansberry and Addison Wiggin recommend these sites …

  • The Motley Fool
    This is one of the best places to pick up information about basic investing concepts and learn about individual companies from other investors.
  • Yahoo! Finance
    This is the best financial website on the Internet. All the basic information you need on stocks plus screening tools to help you find the diamonds in the rough. And, if you're careful, the message boards here can lead to very interesting tips. (Just don't believe all that you read.)
  • Edgar Online
    This is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website. You can look up ALL corporate disclosure information for any stock listed in the United States.
  • You should also check out the following three financial sites …
  • Prudent bear
  • Bloomberg.com
  • MSN Money Central
  • And, of course, Porter Stansberry's Investment Advisory and
  • The Daily Reckoning

And if you're researching health products, master copywriter Arthur Johnson recommends The National Library of Medicine. This site is not for the faint of heart, but invaluable if you're seeking backup for health-related material.

Also check out…

  • http://www.intelihealth.com/
    This site not only includes health news and solutions but also tools for researching health problems by symptoms as well as by name.
  • www.healthy.net
    Contains a huge listing for the latest news, resources, and updates from leading alternative health experts.
  • And Agora's health department…
  • www.hsibalitmore.com
    Reports on the latest alternative health information as well as what the government has in store for it. They've been known to expose junk medicines, flawed science, vegetarian propaganda, FDA misinformation and more.
  • www.realhealthnews.com
    Another great site for alternative health research. Based on the opinions of Dr. Douglass (a vocal opponent of "business-as-usual" medicine)

Once you find a site you like, "bookmark" it to create a shortcut back to it for future reference. Kinda like inserting a piece of paper into a printed book to mark a specific page. Every Internet Service Provider is different so you might need to use the "help" function to find out how your version works. For AOL users, it's as simple as clicking the "Favorites" icon on the top of your screen and then saving the top of the page to your "favorites" folder.

REMINDER: Information found via chat lines, online forums, and discussion groups should be taken with a grain of salt. These are good places to get ideas and leads but always double-check what you read there against a credible source. Same goes for anything you find through a search engine. There's a huge amount of information out there that is updated and added daily – with no source to regulate it. Your best bet is to use caution.

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Published: June 24, 2002

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