Companies' internet websites have become the resource of first resort for business reporters' research, indeed for anyone needing information about a company's doings.
Some are helpful, informative, even entertaining at times. Others seem designed to obfuscate, impede, and discourage.
Many sites, especially of larger companies, contain a "newsroom" feature that relates the expected: where and how has the company been active, financial results, speeches by the president or a variety of other officials, to name some common categories.
Others are more informative-much more informative-about a variety of subjects and an interesting array of information.
One of these is the website for the Norwegian state oil company Statoil.
Hepatitis and fuel cells
You get the expected of Statoil's site: Among stories found there between Oct. 4 and Nov. 20, 2000, were "Cutting well costs," "Rig for repair," "Huldra well stabilized," Wildcat in new area," and "Siri East could be produced."
These are random selections from 32 stories posted on the site-in a little more than 6 weeks' time. That number of postings in that period of time begins to indicate the flavor of the site.
By contrast, for example, on a site for Shell Chemicals between Jan. 6 and Nov. 2, 2000-more than 9 months -there are 28 stories.
Some of Statoil's other stories add a decidedly human dimension to the site and the company.
In July, the site reported that an outbreak of hepatitis A on Statoil's Statfjord C platform had been caused by a carrier of the disease handling food. Nine workers on the installation became ill during a 5-day period in May.
In September, the site reported the death of a 32-year-old Danish contract employee from an accident aboard Statoil's Veslefrikk B production platform.
And last month, the site reported that Statoil is adopting a system for transferring electrocardiograms from offshore platforms to land via the internet. Seems that, of 58 instances so far this year in which workers have had to be transported ashore for illness, 14 have involved cardiovascular problems.
But most of the nonoil news on the site has been more like the story announcing completion by Dec. 31, 2000, of an evaluation of a 3-year, Statoil-financed anti-poverty project among the Akassa tribe in Nigeria.
And last month, the site reported that Statoil had concluded long-term collaborative agreements with five Norwegian research and education bodies. Each of these institutions will be receiving 35 million kroner/year for research and development to improve the quality of their teaching.
Then there was the announcement in September that Statoil had funded a new Norwegian foundation that will organize international environmental gatherings for children and young people.
Finally, there are stories that reflect the company's interest in new technologies.
In September, the site said an international partnership of which Statoil is a member would assess the use of vehicles driven by methanol fuel cells.
And this month, Statoil said on the site that, at its Mongstad complex near Bergen, it would conduct a year-long test of a micro heat and power plant for use in private homes.
Frequently, OGJ editors are sought out-usually by telephone callers but more and more by way of urgent electronic-mail inquires-for information of all kinds.
To these inquires, the too-automatic reply of a harried editor facing yet another weekly deadline (such as for this week's Pipeline Report, p. 70), has become, "Have you checked that company's website?"
And, more and more, the reply is: "Yes."
Then, the answer often follows, "Well, have you looked on our website, OGJ Online?"
Oil & Gas Journal's unique and innovative marriage of electronic and print delivery of information is winning greater recognition and accolades. (See this space in last week's issue for more.)
Timely information reaches OGJ's readers faster than ever through the website (www.ogjonline.com); more timeless information appears where it has been appearing for nearly a century, in the pages of the magazine.
But more importantly, the complementary website and print venues reflect a 21st Century manifestation of the 20th Century mission of the magazine: service to its readers.