How to get a good night’s sleep
If the inability of those around you to get the web is keeping you awake into the small hours, make it too valuable to ignore, says David Bowen.
|Internet World Stats|
What makes people who are responsible for corporate websites fret more than anything else? In my experience it’s frustration that they cannot get their colleagues (and especially bosses) to take their pet medium seriously. If this is what keeps you awake at night (and I hope it isn’t), I have a suggestion.
The web’s perception among people who know little about it is usually rather vague. They know that it’s important and possibly that it has changed their lives. They probably use it to buy books and aeroplane tickets, and maybe as an infinitely large source of information about football, curling tongs, their competitors, what time it is in Melbourne and so on. But that does not mean they think it is particularly important for their company, unless they work for a retailer, an airline or one of the other sectors that has been turned topsy-turvy by the internet.
They rarely look at the company website (intranet, yes; internet? no), but they cannot see a return on investment, they don’t know quite what it is for and, most of all, they do not think of the web is a serious, mainstream medium. They are, therefore, disinclined to take too much notice when the web person comes along and demands their attention or money.
Do they think print is important? Of course. Do they think television is important? But yes. So why don’t they think the web is? According to Internet World Stats, 1,407,724,920 people use the internet, or 21.1 per cent of the world’s population. More relevant, 66.4 per cent of the British population, 71.4 per cent of Americans and (the winners) 88 per cent of Norwegians use it. That means it is near enough a mass medium, up there with the telephone and television.
The more you do the less it matters
The obvious reason for perception lagging reality is that the web is so young. The worldwide web came along in 1993. Most of us did not grow up with it and it is still to many a bit gimmicky, a bit marginal. We wince (well I do) when told that newspapers will disappear and we will have to find all our news on a computer screen. As ‘web natives’ (a rare bit of jargon that works) get to run our companies and countries, this problem will presumably fade away.
But I think there is something more prosaic than this, something we can do something about right now. We value things that are rare. This may mean they are things we pay for – cars, books or, if we are investor relations managers, annual reports. Or they may be things that are free but hard to find – a beautiful summer’s day, a perfect night’s sleep, a colleague who does just what we ask.
The web is not a ‘rare resource’, at least far as managers are concerned. This is one of its great strengths of course: you can put more and more information onto a website, and then more and more. The marginal cost of adding to it is close to zero. So, if your colleagues ask you to put stuff on the site, you tend to say yes – why not, it doesn’t cost you or them anything but a bit of work? Nor does it matter if it’s not particularly good – who’s looking at one page in tens of thousand and anyway, as we have said, the web isn’t that important.
Play the ration card
So here is my idea. Make it a rare resource. Tell your colleagues that the corporate website is a publication, and that it has a limited number of pages. Tell them that the price of publishing content is that it must be good – and you’re the editor, so you get to decide. If they want something on the front cover – the home page – they have to convince you that it is especially worthy of space, because that is the most valuable piece of real estate the company owns.
The advantages are: (a) it will make your colleagues sit up and pay attention to the web; (b) it will improve the quality of the site; © it will make it smaller (which probably means better). After a while, the visitors will notice, you will start to receive plaudits, and then a pay rise.
A possible extension is that departments will have to pay you to publish, turning your department into a revenue centre – though this would probably undo the quality benefits.
The main problem with my scheme is, of course, that it won’t happen unless you can convince your bosses that it is a good idea. How will you do that? Use more resources – cutting intellect, charm, persistence – and see what happens. I have a feeling that, if one site goes this way, it will not be long before others follow.
First published on 09 July, 2008