A company doing its own on-line fact gathering with an eye toward saving money may be practicing false economy. Untrained staffers tracking down complex business intelligence are apt to take twice as long on-line and spend twice as much as they would if they turned over the project to outside experts.

But now there's a way to learn how to do on-line searches as efficiently as the pros do them. Tapping a service called TeamSearch -- offered by Knight-Ridder's on-line computer service, Dialog Information Services -- users can follow a Dialog researcher through a session on-screen and in real time.

With Dialog's conventional custom-search service, Dial-Search, a customer dials an 800 number to contact a trained researcher, who then hunts through Dialog's huge battery of databases and in a few days issues a report.

Since August, however, clients have been able not only to get that report instantly but also to learn enough about conducting such a search to perform one solo the next time. Using TeamSearch -- a conference-modem version of Dial-Search -- the client can observe the search via computer as the pros ply their craft and can intercede where helpful. As facts are uncovered, the client's computer simply stores them in real time.

A TeamSearch session is twice as costly as a DialSearch search -- $50 per 15 minutes, with a minimum of one hour (plus connect time). But if the cost of the session is prorated over later unassisted searches, the business can eventually save money. For details, request fax document #1046 from Dialog by calling 800-496-4470.

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