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Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Web info lacks currency
missing data
Outdated information is rife on company websites
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Despite the internet's reputation for being the place where it is all happening, a lot of the information on the web is old and untrustworthy, say researchers.

A survey conducted by NOP Research found that nearly 80% of companies are publishing out of date information on their websites.

Those interviewed also said the information they were producing was duplicated across websites, was sometimes contradictory and took too long to correct and update.

The NOP researchers say that companies are in danger of losing control over the face they present to the web-going public.

Business tools

The survey of over 100 marketing managers working in finance, technology and media companies found that 77% of them admit to publishing out of date information on their websites.

The information covered everything from basic company information, such as contact numbers through to the prices of shares and goods in catalogues.

"No business would allow this information to be published in hard copy form," said Nick Gregory, marketing director of Mediasurface, a maker of website management software, which commissioned the survey.

Mr Gregory said the survey revealed a contradiction because 83% of those interviewed said they saw the web as an important business tool despite the fact that they published out of date information on it.

"When something is printed, people are much more aware of the potential for litigation and the need for proof reading and so on," Mr Gregory said. "As soon as they go online, they tend to forget the whole process."

Web responsibility

Lax information control systems have already got companies such as Argos, Compaq, WStore and Tandy into trouble on the internet. Most famously, Argos put the wrong price on Sony televisions and sold them for 2.99 instead of 299.99.

The ease with which online consumers can compare and contrast prices on the internet will mean those who do not have the best, or even up to date, prices or offers will lose out, Mr Gregory said.

Many businesses leave the running of the website to their central technology department, he said.

This explains why it can take days for some companies to update their websites, even though electronic information is easier to change than printed brochures and catalogues.

Far better, he said, would be to give responsibility to those creating information, changing prices or updating marketing materials, added Mr Gregory.

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