Friday, November 13, 2009

No One Wants To Visit Your Web Site

As we've seen in my previous post (Content and Containers), people at large have lost interest in containers. As soon as anyone notices how easy it is nowadays to get any desired content delivered right into their browser, they drop any interest in any other containers.

Why is that? Two things: affordability and convenience. It tends to be much cheaper (read: almost always free) to get your content via the publicly vetted general purpose network (i.e. the world wide web), then it is via some proprietary delivery channels (such as your local newsstand, your local cable, etc.) On top of that, it is incomparably more convenient to enjoy the desired content when it suits the consumer, and so this 'on demand' delivery is like a dream come true. Once people experience this kind of freedom, no one in their right mind would ever want to go back to the old, proprietary and costly way of consuming content.

People are therefore abandoning proprietary containers in troves, and are embracing the 'free range' content as it lives on the public web. There is one peculiar detail that seem to have fallen through the cracks, though: no one seems to be aware of the fact that, talking about proprietary containers, a web site is also a proprietary container. Just as a TV cable provider wants to lock customers in and turn them into hostages by disabling them to even begin looking for help, web sites want to lock their visitors/members into their proprietary dungeon, looking for tricks that would prevent them from ever leaving.

However, one thing that the purveyors of proprietary web sites seem to gloss over is that their consumers visit their proprietary sites only because they tend to find the content they're interested in hosted within the bowels of that site. The consumers don't really care about the container that delivers that content.

That sentiment explains why have RSS feeds become so popular. It's the content, stupid! No one cares about your site, no matter how much effort you've invested in prettying it up, choosing the right fonts and font sizes, the right layout, the right colors etc. Who cares? The only thing that matters is the content found on your site!

But guess what: that content is in no way locked in on your site. Other sites can graze the content of your site, slurping it up, repurposing it, making it even more attractive for the consumers than you've ever dreamed possible.

So you, as the web site creator and host, are now faced with two choices: resist and die a horrible death of attrition, as your consumers abandon you, or open up, and die a nice, pleasant death of being swept away by the tsunami.

The choice is yours. But remember -- no one in their right mind wants to visit your site!

Content and Containers

It wasn't that long ago that content was, in general, scarce. I still remember those long gone summers at my grandma's farm house, and how eagerly I used to await Fridays when I'd get to read my latest comic strip periodical. Those were the days when content was scarce, the medium was expensive, and the attention of the targeted audience was guaranteed.

Today, we're all of a sudden faced with the exact opposite situation: content, all kinds of content, is copiously abundant, the media is super cheap (actually, it's practically free), but the attention of the targeted audience is virtually non-existent.

Our ages old fascination with containers (i.e. the carriers of content, such as newspaper print, radios, TVs, VCRs, record players, CD players, DVD players etc.) has now taken a serious nose dive. No one cares anymore how the content gets delivered. We have reached the point where we simply want to consume the content, on demand, at the very moment when we feel like it.

And modern technology is delivering precisely that -- content on demand. If I wish to watch an episode of my favorite TV sitcom, I don't have to check the TV Guide anymore, and wait for the episode to air. I simply watch it on the web, on demand, online.

This is a very essential and a very significant change in the way we traditionally used to consume content. While up until very recently it went without saying that a desired content can be delivered for our consumption only via expensive containers, today we've grown accustomed to the fact that the container doesn't matter anymore. Whether we wish to read the latest news, or a timeless book, or listen to the radio program, or watch TV, or listen to music, watch a movie and so on, we simply get that content delivered directly to us via the web. It's all digital now, so the container doesn't matter.

The moral of the story is that anyone who is planning to make money by charging people for using their proprietary containers is on a fool's errand. These days are gone, and today no one is fascinated with the containers.