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Front Page » March 25, 2010 » Focus on the Web » Weaving on the Web
Published 1,487 days ago

Weaving on the Web


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Imagine a completely digital world...one where paper does not exist and everything is done electronically.

Some say that is the future. Some say that print is dead. Newspapers are on the web and many have electronic versions. Books have gone to Kindle. Phone directories are disappearing from home hall tables (along with the home phone) and instead most of society finds themselves floating around on the web, finding addresses, phone numbers and other information with a simple a click of a mouse. Paper letters have almost disappeared (just ask the post office), replaced by E-mail, which itself is quickly being displaced by social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Terms like tiny URLs, twitter-streams and micro-blogging confuse many, yet for others it is as common to use these terms today as typewriter, mimeograph, adding machine and teletype was for prior generations.

Things are changing in the world of media, but they have changed before too.

In the beginning, when mankind needed to get the word out, person-to-person communication, or "sharing the word," was the key. Then came writing, which probably met some resistence by those who wanted to keep the spoken word as the law. Then came the printing press, and for those who couldn't read, life became much harder. In fact, in many societies, the only ones that could read were mostly the "upper" class. But these words on paper started to make an impression, and soon there were people in almost all societies that were literate. However, there were those that lagged behind in the technology. They not only couldn't keep up with the world, but many lost their freedom to the power of those that could read and print.

Then humankind entered the 20th century. When radio entered the scene, people predicted the end of newspapers; with the technology, we were back to the spoken word again, but in a different way.

Then came television, which in some ways devastated radio much more than it did newspapers. However, as the years progressed and cable television came into being, things began to change more.

Then came the Internet. It was invented in the late 1960s as a way for academic institutions to communicate with one another. Combined with digital communication technologies developed by the defense department, the Internet began to grow faster and faster, until exploded in the 1990s, taking its place in homes and businesses, not to mention global economics. It took the world of media and advertising almost by surprise.

Probably the biggest differentiator between the World Wide Web (which forms a large portion of the Internet), and other technologies before it, is that it has cumulatively incorporated or assimilated the best of past technologies. Nothing before it has incorporated all of these technologies together into one medium. On the Web, people can read the news, they can hear the spoken word (audio), see photos and even play videos. Many news outlets have adopted all of these mediums, regardless of what their primary medium of choice was to begin with.

So where does all this play in the world of business?

Just as in the beginnings of print, there are those that cannot see the use of the Web; they cannot see the possibilities. Their call of "what has it done for me today?" is a fall back to the days when the Luddites opposed mechanization of industry in England in the 1800s. They opposed it then because it threatened their livelihoods; and yet the writing is on the wall in modern times too..

Newspapers today must "be" multimedia. They must not only gather the news and print the stories in the paper, but they must also put that on the Web in an electronic form. They need photos, videos and sometimes even just voice clips. They must have ways for readers to find things in the community.

Newspapers are not dead, they are just changing to a horse of a different color. Although small community newspapers have remained fairly stable in terms of paper circulation, unlike many large dailys, most have found their readership has gone up at least 50 percent due to their Web presense. Some have seen bigger increases than that.

Newspapers, however are more than news. They are also a medium in which local businesses have a chance to get the word out about themselves to people in the community. While print media still works well, the added presense on the Web gives them that much more clout.

Yet to many that may not seem clear as the world gravitates toward a more digital format. They look at numbers and say "This isn't working for me."

But they are wrong.

It is working for them, but not necessarily today. A Web presense, using advertising and social media, is the investment in the future. Book publishers know this and that is why they are embracing Kindle and systems like it. Newspapers know it because they are offereing Web advertising on sites that get as much readership as their papers. Television and radio know it, as their Web sites grow by leaps and bounds.

While many middle aged and older users exist, those under 35 are the ones that are use the Web the most. While that demographic may not be as big as the baby boomers once were, they are the future for businesses. They want everything digital; they want everything on the Web.

Online business directories are of ultimate use to an advertiser. It gives the advertiser and the reader a lot of pluses when it comes to advertising their goods and services.

Advertisers find that:

* The Web is interactive (advertising in a directory can include maps of locations, links, slideshows what is being offered, video of the establishment, lists of sales goods that can be changed daily, etc.). In the case of the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress, the directories on the Web sites also have a package in which they get a story in the print edition about their business yearly as well as front page advertising on the bottom banner periodically. And it all comes in one neatly tied up price.

* It is inexpensive as compared to other ways of getting the name of a business "out there."

* It is a click away on a desktop or laptop computer or even by a mobile device. It means no need to lug phone books or directories around. And with wireless Internet access now available virtually anywhere, it is available 24/7.

* Credible on-line directories that are offered by traditional trusted outlets translate into purchases. Studies have shown that businesses who have both a web presense and "brick and mortar" facilities are generally seen as more credible, thus more trusted.

* Directories are self actualizing. Many are set up so advertisers can manipulate the data on them to create a new list of specials or coupons every week or even every day if they wish. This takes little training to do and can be done from any computer with Internet access.

* Customers who are on the move or on the go are more apt to turn to the Internet for business referrals than stop at a conveniece store and try to use the phone book or other written materials.

For readers, having business directories can be advantageous because:

* Videos and slide shows can convey messages in a way that a traditional ad never could.

* Directories can have links to how-to's, newsletters, informational documents, promotions, etc.

* A Web presense is easily exapandable and can create an atmosphere that is pleasant to use and contains more than just a phone number and an address.

* Particularly for younger viewers, a Web presense tells them something about the business - that it is "up to date" and credible in relation to the viewer's lifestyle.

* Readers can see Web-only specials, promotions and coupons.

Overall a directory lets an advertiser buy an audience, not just a media plug. Advertisers know that the people who are seeing them online are at least computer savvy, and if an advertiser takes advantage of their ability to change up their online directory listing with special promotions and coupons, they can benefit much more than they can if they just have a static site.

Advertising on the Web and in directories is a different business than putting an ad in the paper or on a phone book page. It can be changed immediatelly with no lag time. It also doesn't have to wait until the "next edition" to be updated. It also presents things in a different way - not as text heavy, but more visually and even sound and motion driven.

Finally, and not the least of importance are two things; searchability and world wide presence.

Directories, if created properly and consistently, and if they are linked to other great sites, can bring an advertiser a high place on the Google, Bing or Yahoo search hiearchy. This brings people into to touch with a business from far away, making not only e-sales possible, but for travelers and tourists it can determine whether they will visit or contact a local business or not.

The virtual world is a large one. Not every new, shiny object that comes around will revolutionize the Web, but many will. Each one takes readers, viewers and advertisers one step farther away from the days of word of mouth only.

It is the future, and for a large part the present as well.

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