Getting Back to Basics

Every day, it seems, more “dot-bombs” go off around us, and sometimes it’s depressing.

If Webmasters aren’t being laid off, their jobs are being pulled out from under them. Ever get the feeling that at the end of the day, there will just be one big Web site run by a robot and an accountant?

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s simply not true. The fact is that every one of these 1+1=1 (?) mergers, Chapter 11 filings, and pink-slip avalanches adds up to a great opportunity — for you.

Yes, when business closes a door, it opens a window. One thing most of the e-tailing failures have in common is scale. They scaled for incredible growth and didn’t get it. What the publishing failures have in common is an over-reliance on advertising as a revenue stream. What the failed designers have in common are big bills — for offices and travel, and (worst of all) employees.

The Web was supposed to change all the rules, but the first phase of the Internet revolution saw only the creation of companies that played by the old rules. They had huge warehouses, offices, and organizational charts.

The time has come to get back to basics. And here are just a few hypothetical great new businesses doing just that, on a shoestring budget:

  • Speedy Delivery (with apologies to Mr. Rogers). (“If you steal the name I might sue you, yes, I might.”) The problem with Webvan.com is its huge warehouse. Delivery works well for restaurants in many cities, by telephone. A little programming to make sure routes and pickups can be covered before the orders are taken, a little account at a local deli or groceteria, an extra charge (plus a tip), and voil`! No, you’re right, 99 percent of spoiled yuppies won’t pay the freight, but you just have to find your market, not the whole market. You scale business up as your business grows, not before.

  • Confederacies of Service. It’s a network, people, so network! Get together with a few other experts, and go out for the service business that remains jointly owned. Work out of your homes, but hire (together) an office manager to handle the details. Plow all your savings into lowering your prices. No one will be able to stand against you.
  • Real Publications. Any publisher worth their paycheck knows that depending on advertising is a sucker’s game. Examine all the revenue streams of real publishers, replicate them online, and then use your lower costs to knock the paper killers on their gluteal muscles.

My point today is this: Anyone who thinks this little forest fire means the Web ecosystem is dead doesn’t know ecology. Swamps and forests and even plains need these occasional disasters to clear out the undergrowth. Go take a vacation, learn to enjoy living with less, and then come back here with a clear head.

We’ve got work to do.

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