Google's Next Step: Are Print Mail Order Catalogs Dead?

Jim Edwards

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One of the great joys of the holiday season involves receiving the stack of catalogs that invariably clog the mailbox at the end of my driveway.

Not withstanding the hernia I get from carrying them to the house, or the three acres of rainforest timber it took to print them, holiday catalogs provide a never-ending opportunity to look at stuff I don't want to buy.

Unfortunately, when I do finally decide what I want to buy for those on my holiday shopping list, I find the one catalog I need mysteriously absent from the 6-foot stack.

Fortunately, a new service at Google makes hunting through catalogs to find the perfect gift for yourself or others an absolute breeze.

Log on to http://catalogs. and test out Google's latest offering in an attempt to organize all information on the planet.

At the time of this writing, Google's database of catalogs boasts over 6,000 catalogs covering everything from golf to music to footwear.

The index allows you to browse catalog content either by entering keywords in a search box, or choosing categories in their directory-style listings.

If you want the latest L. L. Bean or Harry and David catalog (or any other), you can perform a search for a specific catalog by name.

If Google doesn't carry a specific catalog, you can click the “Help Google Add More Catalogs" link on the main page of the catalogs directory to suggest they take a look at it.

I personally think Google is very serious about developing this service because they do something here I've never seen them do before: they provide a physical mailing address and invite you to actually “snail mail" them a catalog you want added.

I decided to put the service to the ultimate test by searching for what, at least for me, represents the ultimate catalog purchase from 2003: the singing trout (a. k. a. the “Boogie Bass")!

If they could find that honey of a holiday gift, the service gets my seal of approval.

Of course, in a nanosecond, Google found it in multiple catalogs along with such holiday gems as the “singing fish" and the “TV Caddy. "

On a serious note, a search for “Ford F250 accessories" yielded some very helpful information on catalogs where I can get parts and goodies for my truck.

So, this service goes way beyond searching catalogs with only the “As Seen On TV" gadgets, and gets into some serious niche product information.

Back before the Internet, search engines, and online research, catalogs actually represented an inexpensive way for vendors to publish product information targeting a niche audience.

It makes perfect sense that the Web's largest search engine should start cataloging catalogs and combine print publications with online search.

The only drawback to Google's new catalog browser is that you can't circle the items you really want (writing on your monitor tends to damage it) and then strategically leave the catalog where Santa (or your wife) can conveniently find it and catch a clue as to your greatest wish.

But, you can always send Santa a web link to the items on your list!

Copyright 2005 Jim Edwards

Jim Edwards is a syndicated newspaper columnist and co-author of an amazing program that teaches you how to use free articles to quickly drive thousands of targeted visitors to your website, affiliate links, or blogs. . . without spending a dime on advertising! Click Here>


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