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Business intelligence

Spying on the competition has never been so easy. And, as with so many things these days, we have the internet to thank.

Keeping tabs on the opposition is all part and parcel of running a business. Whether you're hunting around for the next creative director move, checking out the contest at a forthcoming pitch or wanting to know the outcome of a juicy copyright suit involving the agency down the road, the web is your trusty new telltale.

It's all relative

It's one thing having your own brilliant strategy, but business only works within a context. You need to know what's going on in the creative world around you to be able to make decisions as to your next professional move. What are the latest trends and customer habits? Which companies are proving successful and why are others falling to pieces? And looking to the future, who's hiring who and what impact is it going to have? Where is technology going and in which of the newest systems is it worth your investing?

From now on, you needn't rely on weekly magazines or intuition to keep watch of other industry players or make crucial business decisions.

Stock up on scandal

Company Sleuth bills itself the internet's top covert information specialist, whose aim is to uncover clues as to companies' unannounced plans. Until recently you could log on to, pay a subscription and receive daily email reports giving the business, internet and financial dealings of up to ten selected public companies. These days, Company Sleuth focuses on what it calls stock exchange news and stock watch news - still useful tools for a little snooping around. And the site also has links to's database of news articles and's reference site.

Hoover's, at, part of Dun and Bradstreet, is a powerful business research database & sales acceleration platform / directory that details sales leads & industry insights, financial and executive activities of public, private and government-run enterprises around the world. While Yahoo! Finance now an Oath brand provides everything from press releases to insider stock trades.

Internet hearsay

Web message boards, such as the one on Yahoo! Finance and Raging Bull's online partnership, should be viewed with a pinch of salt. Saying this, they sometimes yield the odd gem, such as discarded business models or defections among workers (it is largely disgruntled employees who spend their time posting messages on the web).

If you want to nose through records compiled by public offices and agencies, has both search and research tools to take you to what you want to know. With user fees varying according to the kind of records you request, the site will show you companies' real estate holdings, stock ownership and assets as well as helping you learn about lawsuits, permits and bankruptcies.

Job spotting

Creatives have long since utilised the web's offerings on the job hunt front. But online job search tools aren't only for people looking for employment. They're for astute business detectives trying to keep on top of their competitors' movements. Websites such as, and, to name just a fraction of what's out there, must be trawled if you're going to find out that your rival agency is advertising for a project leader who's going to take its creative strategy to the next level with a client/server ecommerce application. There. You've learned more than you thought you would. Job openings are among the best inadvertent sources of details about company strategy.

And then there are and, which, though designed primarily for job seekers, offer insider information on companies as well.

So don't worry if you're not gifted with a sixth sense. Get online and let your fingers do the sniffing.