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Website Content Should Not Be All Up in the Air

Website Content Should Not Be All Up in the Air

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Published by Kieran O'Hea

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Published by: Kieran O'Hea on Mar 05, 2010
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10/07/2012

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September 24 2000
Website contentshould not be all upin the air
Kieran O’Hea
argues that you must devise a strategy if you want your web contentto have value and credibilityAircraft throw people together at random and there was a time when the passengernext to you would almost always be a botanist to your engineer. But when you are
an Internet consultant in today’s world, you are never short of conversation.
 Late last year, a fellow passenger on the flight told me he imported Japanese cars.After extolling the benefits of the latest Impreza, he asked me if I know anythingabout the World Wide Web. He explained he had just opened a website.I asked him who had designed it for him. He replied proudly that he had done ithimself. And what did it consist of, I asked him? Just some text, a photograph and aphone number. And was he happy with it? Not really, he replied
 –
the first six callswere from web designers telling him the site was terrible and offering to redesign itfor thousands.
Around the same time one of the city’s leading nightclubs decided to reinvent itsel
as a dotcom, and opened its doors to reveal a suitably futuristic interior. Outsidewas erected a URL-emblazoned stainless steel sign indicating that this venue wouldbe driven by its online sibling.At last there was a place in this cash-rich, time-poor town for people who wanted to
premeditate their clubbing online, find out what’s on and team up with their
soulmates. So what went wrong? The website promised the best millennium partyin town. The problem is it still does
 –
nine months later.These brief anecdotes serve to show some of the problems businesses are facingand the traps into which they have fallen. Buying a website is a bit like buying a car.Like a car, your website is delivered with a complementary tank of petrol (content).That soon runs out and you have to keep adding more content if you want to getanywhere. Would anyone buy a car expecting that free tank of fuel to last forever?No one would. Yet people do this with websites all the time.We have reached the crossing point from web as brochure to web as business. Withany type of business comes a strategy. In this case it is the content strategy.
 
Some companies will use the web simply to build a story around their business,others are already conducting millions of dollars a day worth of sales online. Somecompanies only exist on the Internet. There is a content strategy to suit everycontext.
Don’t underest
imate content. It promotes your brand, attracts users to your siteand guides them around. Hopefully it makes them come back.Not every company is online, but vast amounts are, and the number is growingdaily. So think of a very big number. Add to the web the emerging channels such asWAP and Digital TV. There are quite a few. Then multiply it all together and you geta feel for the amount of content that is going to be created, bought, sold,downloaded, stored and consumed.
There’s a line in a song: “It o
nly takes one tree to make a hundred thousandmatches,
it only takes one match to burn a hundred thousand trees.” There is a
clear warning in this. The propagation of content is like a forest fire: fast andpotentially lethal. Soon companies will start to get burned.This is not about information overload. Information overload was a concern fiveyears ago. Then the concern went away, but the information stayed
 –
we justlearned to deal with it.The danger now is that companies that have ventured on to the web without aproper contingency for content management will get themselves into serioustrouble trying to update their sites and archive and dispose of old content, while at
the same time feeding their customer’s voracious appetite for new content.
Add to this the increasing and unpredictable volume of content that is being createdby users themselves: queries, orders, complaints. Every user interaction generatescontent.
And don’t think you can erase anything. Recently, a person who had an unhappy
holiday took legal action against the owners of the website that had advertised theholiday in their Last Minute section. By the time the court case took place the offerwas long gone but the company was ordered by the court to produce the offendingwebpage. In fear of litigation, certain companies may start to archive everything.There is every possibility that the next Y2K type hysteria will be caused by content.This may sound like War of the Worlds, but those businesses that were early to theweb are beginning to experience this now.The main danger is that the awareness is building from the wrong end of thedecision chain. Webmasters and site administrators have become the victim of misinformed decisions taken by management, and now find themselves unheededas they try to come to grips with a mounting problem. Testament to this is thefrantic rollout of content management systems which are in the main firefighting
devices that may deal with today’s problem but do not anticipate the problems
associated with managing rich multimedia assets such as video and audio.

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