The Field is Still Level.
One of the hot topics over the last few
weeks has been the premature announcement of the death of the internet
as great equalizer among businesses big and small. It seems that very
same pundits who only five minutes ago proclaimed the world wide web as
The Great Level Playing Field are now burying their optimism six feet
under it. Well, before you ask yourself how this can be, let's try looking
at the issue from an entirely different perspective.
I know -- how about using the truth? Now
there's a novel idea.
The problem with pundits is that, like
lemmings, they grab whatever concept sounds shocking or provocative and
run straight over the cliff to their editors, without really taking the
time to evaluate whether their newfound sound byte is worth dying for.
The truth is that the web is just as level as it ever was. The only difference
is that field is a heck of a lot bigger than it was a year ago, and may
be the only thing expanding more rapidly than Elizabeth Taylor's waistline.
Don't kid yourself. The web is bigger
and more level than ever. If you want to know why the web is as fruitful
now as it ever was -- actually moreso -- allow me to humbly submit the
1. IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE. You want
to know why these knuckleheads are pronouncing the demise of the Web for
the little guy? I'll tell you why: because NONE of them has ever BEEN
a little guy. They aren't now, nor have they ever been. And that's the
problem. They never truly understood what the term "level playing
field" meant to you or me or the guy staring at his screen waiting
for his next Christy Canyon AVI to download. What the terms means is that
for next to nothing, our websites can look as big and as powerful as Coca-Cola's.
Conversely, Coca-Cola CAN'T look any more powerful than we do. I mean,
we all know pimply seventeen year old kids who can crank out websites
that do everything but make coffee in the morning for $25 per page. How
much more can a mega-company do? Not much.
2. NOBODY CHARGES YOU FOR ACCESS. The
most appealing aspect of the web is that anyone who wants to access stuff,
can access it. No charges. No fees. Just log on and plug in. The few dummies
who have tried to make you pay for content have either (a) gone out of
business or (b) retooled their content to be so proprietary that they
deserve the few bucks they get. Which means that to a HUGE extent, just
about anything you want from just about anyone you know is free for the
clicking. Free is the norm. Heck, even the search engines -- where almost
everyone starts out -- will list your site for nothing. Zero. And in case
you think that banners on a search engine are anything to write home about,
ask yourself this: when was the last time you did a search and then clicked
on the banner ad? If you're any kind of shopper, you do a search to get
MORE listings, not less. So who cares if the big guys buy banners there?
People who search for listings are, well, searching for listings. They
want a choice. And if this weren't true, I can tell you this: Frankel
& Anderson would never get any business through our website; it would
all go to Ogilvy & Mather, FCB or some other institutional corporate
3. IT'S A TWO WAY CHANNEL. People keep
confusing web strategy with TV strategy. They keep forgetting that on
the web, you can start your own program on your own channel and run it
24 hours day. You can also do it for under a thousand bucks. Which means
that every day, more and more programs "go into the line up",
and more and more channels "go on the air". There's nothing
to block people from coming to your site. Nothing to keep them from contacting
you instantly, in most cases, for free. Let's see you try that with television.
4. BIG MONEY CAN'T BUY IT ALL. The mavens
will try to tell you that the big money accounts are buying up banner
ads and are dominating everything and every place and yadayada, whine,
whine, whine. Hey, wake up: there isn't enough money to buy up the web,
and even if there were, nobody has shown me the study that says that ANY
of the paid advertising schemes out there are actually working. The smart
money says let the corporate knuckleheads pour money into the web. After
all, if they don't, who's going to support all the places that we need
to survive? But is that cutting into your market share? I think not.
5. IT'S BRAINS OVER BRAWN. Maybe it's
because I was short as a kid, but I can tell you that I won every fight
I ever got into because I was smarter than the bully, not stronger. If
you know anything about corporate America, you know that they have two
ways of solving a problem: one is by spending their way out of it; the
other way is by firing the people responsible for it. The more highly
visible of the two is spending, which provides corporate America with
a few other nifty side benefits. First, spending is high profile, which
translates into extra press attention. Second, they (hopefully) get a
"rub-off" effect of looking cool to the rest of the world, or
at least the guys at the tennis club. Fine. But neither of them actually
goes to the bottom line, so what's the difference? More importantly, what
have YOU lost from it? Nothing. In fact, you actually gain from these
dopes' ineffective use of the web, because it continues to legitimize
the media for people like you and me. Effectively, it makes it easier
for you and me to attract and sell sponsorships -- and if you believe
in them -- banner ads.
Don't kid yourself. The playing field
is still level. It's business that's always the uphill battle.