TITLE: American Directory Assistance

ACCESS: http://www.abii.com/

American Directory Assistance is one of the free services offered at the American Business Information Web site, a publicly-held company in business for 25 years who develops products to service the business and marketing communities. They produce a series of directories on CD-ROM for both personal and business use. Their databases are compiled from many sources including 5,200 Yellow Pages and Business White Pages; annual reports; SEC information; federal, state and municipal government data and well as business magazines and newsletters. With regard to currency and accuracy, they report that each business listing is verified with 16 million phone calls a year from staff who update and verify information on a continuous, real-time basis.

ABI's free directories are designed for students, businesses, public users and potential buyers of their products to do everything from direct mail advertising, telemarketing, planning a vacation or tracking down people who owe you money. Academic users would find this tool to be useful for basic quick directory assistance. You must first select either the "business" or "people" directory to conduct your search. The people, or residential, directory assistance is actually a database product of "Database America Companies" -- a marketing information company that merged with ABI in 1996. The people directory is simple and direct, featuring a search form screen where you can enter either a name or a number and pull up the full name, address and phone number. It automatically truncates a name and will search the entire country or you can limit the search by state and city. The reverse directory feature is useful and not available on many other directory sites.

The free American Directory service for finding businesses is clunky and cumbersome for doing any real business, marketing type of research although you can search by industry type and limit by a geographic area, be it a city, state or zip code and get a listing of business addresses and phone numbers. However, in order to perform this type of subject search, you must select the link to YELLOW PAGES or SALES LEADS AND MAILING LISTS at the bottom of the screen. This latter link offers a more complex search engine and the ability to search by SIC code, major industry group or yellow page headings and then limit by city, state, zip code, or Metropolitan Area (MSA). This would permit one to locate, say, all the web design companies in your town or zip code area to either hire a designer or apply for a job. This type of search takes many steps, but you do finally get a results list. For a charge of $3.00 they will let you then download a company profile of any of the business you select. A search for web design businesses in the New York city area netted 91 hits and a charge of $45.50 to download the whole list. A similar search on another directory web site, Big Yellow, (http://www1.bigyellow.com/) netted 14 hits, all free with direct links to each company's web page. When doing a simple, straightforward search for the number and address of a particular company, however, you are required to enter both the name of the company and the state-- which is fine if you know where the company is located. If not, you are out of luck. There other directory sites that do offer this useful feature, including Switchboard (also reviewed this month.)

Lucinda R. Zoe
Head, Electronic Information Services
Baruch College, CUNY, New York, NY


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