You, Sources, and Getting
the Most Out of the Internet
Including Six Internet Fictions to Consider
By Barrie Zwicker
The Internet is remarkable - perhaps as important as the book in
its eventual impact on civilization. It is also in its early days.
Current Internet technology can be compared to 1950s television
We've been promoting the Internet for years. Dean's
Digital World has been running since the Summer
1993 edition. SOURCES SELECT® Online - featuring this
Names & Numbers, the Connexions
directory, and more - launched more than a year ago.
Our Internet site (www.sources.com)
launched in January. Through our ISDN line we're a budget-priced
Internet provider as well.
It's a truism that no one knows how the Internet and its most visible
current manifestation, the World Wide Web, will evolve. The potentials
appear major but there are pitfalls that are not minor. Questions
are more appropriate than answers. Nevertheless, in working our
way through our developments we've gained some ideas for getting
the most out of the Internet, and have encountered some of the pitfalls.
Organizations reaping net benefit from the Internet will be those
that use it as a new element in a multi-media strategy and follow
the evolving mix closely. To look upon the Internet as a do-it-all
communications medium is the main danger for an organization.
Another widespread misconception is that money will be made on
the Internet. This will be true for a small fraction of those with
sites. But increasing evidence shows it's prudent to proceed on
the assumption that the Internet will constitute a net cost indefinitely
for most organizations with sites.
The cost of launching a site that really works, and maintaining
it, is usually much higher than at first budgetted. The famed Hot
Wired site employs 200. Most of their pay comes from revenue
from advertising in the print parent, Wired magazine.
With the help of suppliers that know the ropes you can, however,
come out a winner in terms of the aims and objectives of your organization.
We recommend the Internet-knowledgeable organizations named at the
end of this article. All are listed in Sources and
therefore can be found through the Internet at our site, SOURCES
SELECT Online (SSO) at www.sources.com.
From our many customer organizations we hear a variety of "takes"
on communications activities in general and the Internet in particular.
* Most organizations are carrying out their communications strategy
with less money. We've can appreciate the re-thinking that this
forces; we've undergone our own cost-cutting.
* With computers and other new information technology, organizations
are trying to accomplish more, with a given number of people, than
they did before.
* Scarce resources are increasingly being diverted to development
of Internet sites or home pages.
Over the long run, successful sites will be those that:
* Provide excellent content: particular, accurate, and up-to-date
useful and/or entertaining information. Useful or entertaining to
the user, that is.
* Are timely: provide information on current or emerging topics
of growing interest to large or increasing numbers of people. Examples:
bicycling, spirituality, investing, the environment. And combinations
of such topics (e.g., green investing).
* Are easy - and fast - to use.
* Provide meaningful interaction, including transactional opportunities
(that is, provide the user with an ability to access more information
right away [as with hot links], buy something, order something,
leave a message, leave a query, etc.).
* Tend not to be over-designed. The Internet is not TV, something
a lot of page designers appear not to understand. Graphics slow
downloading. Eventually people either become impatient enough to
feel like skipping over-designed sites, or they turn off the graphics.
Ottawa-based Michael Strangelove (Michael@strangelove.com) is
publisher of the excellent Internet Business Journal. In
the April 1996 edition he concluded an article on the myths of the
Internet: "The killer application of the Internet is not Mosaic
or Netscape. It should be plain to anyone not accessing the Net
over a T1 line that the major contribution of new browsers and related
multimedia applications has been acute boredom. Over-designed Web
pages have spread through the Net like a virus. In a simple twist
of fate, Netscape is killing the Net. Most Web developers are still
treating the medium as if they wished it were television. The reckless
disregard for the person on the other end of the commercial Web
site is now responsible for a high turnover rate among surfers."
For Internet Business Journal subscription information phone
(613) 241-0982 or fax (613) 241-4433.
Some assertions we hear are mistaken enough, we think, to be called
fictions. See what you think.
Fiction #1: "We're on the Internet. We're reaching the
* Those of us who have hung out our digital shingles on the Internet
aren't reaching the world. We can reach certain target groups if
we apply Netiquette. But the Net is not essentially a broadcast
medium. Some people reach us.
* A new home page is launched every four seconds, notes Julian
Sher, an Internet trainer and a producer with CBC-TV's the fifth
estate. Lately the Web has been doubling every 50 days. Who
could keep up? No one is "reaching" all these home pages.
It's probably technically impossible. If it was possible, it wouldn't
be desirable for any organization we can think of.
Fiction #2: "We're doing all our marketing on the Internet."
* It's extremely unlikely that all customers, let alone prospective
customers, of any organization would even have access to the Internet,
let alone use it exclusively. On that score alone all the marketing
of an organization cannot be done through the Internet.
* As Mark LaVigne, Senior Associate with Toronto-based McMaster
Communications and a former radio journalist, notes regarding media
releases: "Many journalists are not on the 'Net. A lot of journalists
who are on it hate E-mail news releases, although you can send out
a one-liner, ask who wants to see the full release, and wait for
Fiction #3: "Everyone knows us. And now they can reach
us on the Internet."
* The "everyone knows us" claim has been around since
long before the Internet. This alone does not make it mistaken,
* How does one find all the organizations that believe everyone
knows them? "Organizations everyone knows" will hardly
work as a search query.
* How, exactly, does one find even one organization that believes
everyone knows it?
* What does "finding" an organization mean? In the context
of niche marketing, say, or in the context of serious information-seekers?
* In the case of a nationally-known brewery, for instance, how
does a reporter reach the right person in the brewing organization
on a weekend it's staging a sporting event or festival?
* How many World Wide Web sites list home phone numbers of key
* When sites do, how will reporters who don't have access to the
Internet learn those numbers? What about serious inquirers who normally
have Internet access but are away from that access when they need
to reach your organization or a particular person in it?
* If any organization can make stick the claim being known by everyone
(meaning everyone on Earth), it must be Coca-Cola. Why do Coca-Cola
and other almost equally-well-known corporations continue to invest
millions on non-Internet advertising, marketing and promotion? Why
do Coca-Cola and other major organizations - as well as a thousand
medium-sized and small organizations -- maintain their listings
in sources? Because they know the Internet is, and
will continue to be, one communications medium among others, not
suddenly the only communications medium there is.
Fiction #4: "We're on the Internet, so we don't need
* How do people learn our Internet URLs? By Web browser searching.
Yes. But there are and will inevitably continue to be limitations
to such searches. Internet research trainer Julian Sher says that
if he does not get on the trail of what he's seeking after five
to 10 minutes on the Internet, he turns to non-Internet resources.
Those who are not aware of the limitations may miss our sites because
they think they have conducted a comprehensive search, but haven't.
* Why do TV networks such as CBC and CTV run their Internet addresses
at the end of their nightly newscasts? (And maintain listings in
sources?) Why do radio programs announce their Internet addresses
repeatedly? Because non-Internet communications promote meaningful
* Why do a growing number of newspapers run their Internet addresses
on their front page folio lines? Because non-Internet communications
promote meaningful Internet hits.
* Why do periodicals (including Maclean's, The Globe
and Mail, Masthead and sources) promote
their Internet addresses? Because non-Internet communications promote
meaningful Internet hits.
* Why are organizations of all kinds increasingly including their
WWW addresses in print ads, in brochures and flyers, on their TV
and radio spots, on billboards, and elsewhere? Because non-Internet
communications promote meaningful Internet hits.
* Perhaps most tellingly, why do the most successful Internet-based
organizations invest heavily in non-Internet communications (for
instance, in books, manuals, radio programs, print advertisements,
non-Net directories, and more)? Because non-Internet communications
promote meaningful Internet hits.
* To say "We have a Web site" is comparable to saying
"We have a phone number." The phone won't ring unless
steps are taken to attract calls, starting with a listing in the
white pages directory and an ad in the Yellow Pages, then going
on to a variety of other marketing activities..
Fiction #5: "We're getting (fill in the blanks) hits
a day/week/month. It's amazing."
* We're as proud of the rising number of hits to SSO as is the
next site of its hit count. But hit counts are not body counts,
as Rick Broadhead, co-author of The Canadian Internet Handbook
told a packed Internet seminar at the recent Magazines '96 conference.
Included are multiple hits for text and graphics, a large number
of casuals, and repeats. They conceal more than they reveal. Until
we can identify who visits our sites, what they're looking at, and
how long they're staying, we don't have very useful hit information.
Fiction #6: "We have a World Wide Web site, as everyone
* Consider conversations we had recently with communications people
in three organizations - a national trade association headquartered
in Ottawa, a private firm with marketing headquarters in Mississauga,
Ont. and an Ontario professional association.
All three individuals told us they were switching their communications
efforts virtually entirely to the Internet. Each went on to suggest
to us that Sources "should go on the 'Net."
We are not making this up. Each, including the one who called us
"a dinosaur," were surprised to learn we have a World
Wide Web site. (We weren't surprised, even though we've announced
it by mail, in sales and promotional literature, in house ads and
on the cover of this directory.)
The point they seemed to miss: if they didn't know we're on, why
should others know they're on?
Currently, the Internet Business Journal notes, domain names
are being registered at the rate of 25,000 a month. A lot of sites
have hard-to-remember names such as this one we saw advertised recently:
The more your address is like www.[YOURNAME].com, the better.
All of which is not to attempt to downgrade the value of the Internet
and its fastest-growing facet, the World Wide Web. As we said at
the beginning, we were early boosters.
It is, rather, to suggest that those who will reap the most benefit
from the Internet are, those who keep it in perspective. As Mark
LaVigne says: "The Internet is another medium. It is a big
mistake to abandon previous avenues of communication."
Barrie Zwicker is Publisher of Sources and a Segment Presenter
specializing in media criticism and the Internet on VISION-TV's
daily human affairs program Skylight, which launches its third season
in October, at 7 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Click here
to see his Sources listing.
Published in Sources,
Number 38, Summer 1996
Sources Select Online Story
Publisher Barrie Zwicker looks back -- and ahead
A Quick History to 1997
Letter (Sources 42)
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