Publicity Mad

Everyone on the web these days is publicity mad.

PBS (called the Petroleum Broadcasting System in the 1970s, when all the big sponsors were oil companies) now lists all “sponsors” with web addresses. Every tchotche (little gift) from everyone I meet has a web address. My mouse pad reads Gateway.com. My old school is RiceOwls.com The sign behind home plate during the national baseball game? It’s an ad for ESPN.com.

Like it or not, your company name is now your web address. Got stuck with a non-optimal address? Tough luck, Sparky, change the name or pay off some domain name pirate for something better.

There’s good news here. It means the real world is reeling in the Net, making it more a part of real life and more permanent. (Wall Street does this by throwing out more Internet IPOs than Derek Jeter, Madison Avenue by shoving dot-coms down your throat like a French farmer feeding a goose.)

Unfortunately, not everyone knows yet that just having a dot-com after your name is just so 1996. If the whole world isn’t watching, why advertise yourself to them? Lycos may get value from a race car with its name on it, but ClickZ doesn’t need one. (Sorry, A & A.)

It’s time we got realistic here. This site needs to be known by people who care about e-commerce. You need to identify your audience and advertise to them, not to 250 million other people. And if you don’t have something really different, a big ad campaign aimed at everyone is just a waste of money. (The need for such a marketing budget may fairly be called a barrier to competition.)

So anyway, I’m minding my own business, watching SportsCenter on ESPN (sponsored in part by ESPN.Com), when I happen upon the scores from this week’s Ladies Professional Golfing Association (LPGA) event, the AreaWeb.com challenge! (The winner was Australian Mardi Lunn.)

AreaWeb.com says it’s organizing the web by area code. According to the company’s announcement page, they’re based in New York, got $1 million in venture funding in March, and said in April they would launch August 2.

That may have been optimistic. As a test, I tried the area code for Atlanta. That’s 404, the web symbol for “page not found,” and it seems to describe the service. AreaWeb still hasn’t learned that all Atlanta suburbs are now in the 770 area code. They haven’t heard of 678, the new “overlay code” that has some homes calling their teenagers’ rooms by long distance. (Would that it were so.)

Oh, and a search on what’s on 404 web features entries from Columbus (in the 912 area code), Augusta (706 boys) and Doraville (770 again). There are also entries for places that aren’t even places, like the Candler-McAfee area of South DeKalb County, and Belvedere Park, an unincorporated neighborhood.

Everyone who’s got game is pushing their site hard in all media. If you don’t have your game together yet, don’t join them. Fore!

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