S P O N S O R S
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- Back Issues, Weekly
- Week Ending: May 25, 1996
- May 25, 1996
Need a little more biting sarcasm in your day? Suck provides a daily dose of crisp web commentary each weekday. We were particularly taken with the current piece (Dated May 24, it's not linkable because it's in a frame but you can find it in their archives). It pokes fun at the various business models currently floating around the Web. They've also done tremendous sendups of One to One Marketing (May 23) and generally poke through the conventional wisdom in the electronic business community. They'll make you laugh at yourself. You might even laugh hard enough to get a glimpse of your next innovation.
- May 24, 1996
- Web Informant
Part of staying abreast of the rapid changes on the web is accepting the idea that you won't see everything. Off in an overlooked corner is bound to be a growing "something or other" that you'll discover when it's full grown. If you try to make sure that you don't miss anything, you'll never get anything done.
We seem to have missed a great web-flower.
David Strom is a well placed journalist who covers the Internet for InfoWorld , CBS, Forbes ASAP, and others. He's been writing a weekly column. called the Web Informant, since late September, 1995. The articles are compact little gems and can be received via email by subscribing at his site.
The material has a solid industry orientation with some interesting musings on the evolution of the Web. It's similar to Dave-Net with a more regular pulse. Definitely worth a visit.
- May 23, 1996
- Fighting the Last War
That Generals prepare themselves to win the last war is the stuff of a decade's worth of business cliches. Another way of describing the experience is "The seeds of your next failure are sown in your last success." Both boil down to "It's hard to fix something that doesn't seem broken."
Dwight Eisenhower once said, "The plan is everything, the plan is nothing." By this, he meant that the best way to learn to see beyond the limits caused by your current successes is to continually plan and replan knowing full well that the final result is preparedness not detailed control. Or, plans are maps of uncharted territories that are useful for wrestling with principles and imagining scenarios. The actual reality is guaranteed to be different than the map you create in the planning process.
We got to thinking about the importance of strategy and planning after reading a provocative essay called Digital Sculptures by Leo Schwab, a visonary at the 3DO company. By imagining the consequences of technology 400 years from now,the essay tries to track back to contemporary assumptions about media. At the bottom line, it says that we've begun a journey into an era where everything is infinitely reproducible. Therefore, it goes on, thinking about things as if the "form" mattered is counterproductive. We agree.
The problem is that not all of our current assumptions are rooted in traditional manufacturing ideas. A close look at the last two decades of Western Business history shows an increasing dependence on process management and a de-emphasis on inspection as a means of control. These are precisely the adaptive qualities required by our new era. So, the strategic trick is figuring out which of our existing assumptions will continue to be useful. New assumptions will unfold and we need a way to tell what baggage is unnecessary.
We think that business ultimately has an edge in this arena. Underneath all of the broohaha and changing fads, business is the process of creating value through a series of relationships. Form is fundamentally irrelevant (though the biggest trap most businesses fall into is identifying themselves with a particular product or way of doing things). Adaptive businesses continually re-invent themselves adding novelty and new value to existing structures. Interestingly, that's what the web seems to require.
- May 22, 1996
It's busy and buggy still but HotWired's just made a splash in the search engine market. Called HotBot the service claims over 35 million fully indexed documents. Even the Wall Street Journal took notice of this new entrant which is a partnership with Inktomi
Netree says that it's the "shortest path to the rest of the Web". While we're unsure about the claim, Netree wins major points for information design in our book. The site is a mix of a clever directory tree and links to "Instant News". While packed with info, the screen is entirely navigable and responds quicly. We like it.
Netree is an offering from Internet Solutions who use it as a gateway introduction to the rest of their services. We admire the forthrightness of the approach and point to it as a model of how to do Web Marketing.
In yesterdays's mail, we received a jubilant press release from an organization calling itself the Virtual Magistrate
Project. The project's "first case" was "settled". The dispute, between AOL and a mass email firm, was resolved by determining that AOL should remove a posting announcing the sale of huge email lists.
Here's what we don't get: Only AOL participated in the dispute resolution. Sounds like more of the same questionable logic that has dogged the commercial development of the Web. We're, frankly, too stupid to figure out how arbitration can have meaning when both parties don't participate. It's not that we favor indiscriminate email (a horribly ineffective tactic). It's that we'd be ashamed to be associated with this sort of bogus quasi-legal boondoggle.
Invoking the vague concept of "Internet Custom", the one sided arbitration attempted to put a legalistic face on a witch-hunt. This sort of ill-considered public relations ploy ranks with the current Java Scare (see Last week's Fear Sells) for slimy self promotion stunt of the month. If ethical business practice and arbitration are the desired outcomes, we suggest that the parties visit with Net Check Commerce Bureau (reviewed yesterday). Meanwhile, rational business people will stay away from a world in which processes like this one proliferate.
- May 21, 1996
- Hey, we like this one and think it's about time. The Net Check Commerce Bureau is an organization that tries to promote ethical business practice online. They take compliments and complaints from your customers and shiowcase them in a searchable database. They also provide arbitration services if required. The membership list is reasonably impressive. The service is simple and necessary.
- May 20, 1996
- Wouldn't it be nice to always be right? Last week (May 18), we complained about the abrupt closing of Web Review and the Rt. 66 Webstations. Accusing them both of a lack of dignity and a larger than normal share of naivete, the article offered lots of sarcasm and little in the way of constructive suggestion. Neither enterprise is alone in their predicament. the web. The difference? Doing business THROUGH the web implies that there are relationships and alliances at the root of any business success. Doing business ON the web implies that distribution is at the root of success. It might sound like a minor distinction. We think it's at the root of a whole worldview. Business, per se, can't be conducted ON the web. It can be done, very effectively using the web as a tool.
For all of its promise, the Web has yet to consistently produce a working business model that can be easily applied to online publications. The electronic recruiting industry seems to be taking solid steps towards profitability. Book and music retailing, while not yet profitable, are able to generate a cash-flow that stems some of the losses. Small scale real estate has several shining success stories and some major innovations. Business sites used as a part of an overall advertising campaign are expected to be cost centers.
Publishing, on the other hand, is off to a slow and treacherous start. High profile operations like HotWired have established interesting cashflows but seem to add staff faster than money. The Wall Street Journal (and others) have framed their web offerings as introductory trials to be followed by subscription services. (We still prefer the paper version, kept in the office restrooms.) But, no one has yet to make it work.
It's a kind of blindness that comes from a semantic misunderstanding. Many struggling publications hope to make their money ON the web. We're convinced that business is conducted THROUGH
Launching a new, untested print periodical involves developing a business plan, soliciting startup advertisers and clearly defining audience demographics and targeting. The bulk of the initial outlays are not spent on design and content, rather, they're invested in circulation and ad rate discounting. At the root of a successful launch is a partnership with the companies who will be the long term advertisers in the fledgling product. Unfortunately, the audience, as passionate as it might be, simply receives benefits from the successful business relationships at the heart of the enterprise. There are very few (none come to mind) examples of audience supported media. In the most optimal cases ("public" television and radio) the audience provides 30% of the cashflow required.
It's an interesting paradox. The publishing industry is slow to adopt the Web as a delivery vehicle which makes for market opportunities like Web Review. But, as newcomers to the business, periodical startups lack the publishing experience with developing advertising relationships. It's a central problem in any user designed product.
Last week's article was harsh and we apologize. Reinventing the wheel is hard work and we admire the vision of both 'zines. We prefer swan songs that take responsibility and avoid the delivery of guilt. A 10% response rate (Web Reviews stated survival objective) is "leading with the chin". We'd suggest aiming for 2% and calling in some favors at key ad agencies. It would take reframing the publisher's role at Web Review It would also require solidly pitching quantifiable benefits in a long term partnership with key advertisers. It's at this juncture that real publishing, with all of it's attendant ethical dilemnas, will emerge on the web.
This article was inspired by Robert Seidman's balanced treatment of the question in the current issue of "Online Insider" which should be on your "Required Reading" list by now
- May 19, 1996
- Initial Promotion Of Your Business
In our article on Types of Links, we talked about the fundamental category of links which we called mechanical or commodity links. The very first order of business in developing an internet presence is to arrange as many mechanical links as possible. There are two major approaches.
The "Do It Yourself" approach has some of the basic research work laid out for you. You can vist any of these sites to find ready made access to the major link directories and search engines:
We find the process of repetitive data entry for each of these mechanical links to be time consuming and repetitive. The second approach is to use a service like our sponsor The Postmaster offers. For a fee, these services automatically post your listings to major search engines and directories. In the case of The Postmaster submittals are also sent to a small list of media firms.
The range of links offered by either the Do It yourself packages or the paid services are a bare bones beginning to a full promotional campaign.
You probably won't be satisfied (for long) with the results of these simple mechanical links. You might remember that we suggest that you'll need around 5,000 inbound links of varying kinds to build economically sustainable traffic to your site. (Obviously, there are any number of caveats to this figure and the real number in any particular case is dependent on your objectives and your industry. The goal, after all is to build the right traffic, not volumes of it.)
There are a few organizations around that will work the next layer of promotion for you. Some target USENET Newsgroups while others conduct focused relationship development campaigns. We'll be bringing you more about these approaches in later issues.
- Contacting Us
- Call, fax, write, email. We'd love to talk about your project.