Rich Media Versus Words

Here’s my take on the future of words on the web: Their skilled use will become more and more important for sites that have any kind of long-term vision of becoming profitable. Web TV, broadband, and rich media will have their impact. And many may follow the path of converging the Net with TV.

(I have a posture issue with this convergence idea. When I watch TV, I lie down about 12 feet back, never read a word on the screen and usually fall asleep within 20 minutes. When I use the Internet, I sit up straight about two feet away from the screen, read a lot, and become very irritated by movement on the screen while I’m trying to read. You want to try to converge these two experiences? Good luck to you.)

But, I think when clear heads and balance sheets prevail, the Internet will still be seen and used in a way that maximizes its ability to share information among millions.

Sharing information will take words. To do it well will take the skilled use of words. And if you want those words to generate direct and immediate sales, the level of skill required takes a sharp turn upwards. Right now, you can surf the web and begin to separate the sites that recognize the value of words from those that don’t.

IPO-centric sites that have their exit strategies already scheduled don’t really need quality writing. They don’t really need quality responses or, indeed, quality profits. It’s not part of the plan.

But sites that have some quaint notion of becoming profitable will need to find ways to generate those quality responses. And it’s my contention that the only real way to achieve this is through the use of words.

Here’s my thinking.

To sell stuff to someone, whatever the environment, you need to ‘touch’ that person. You need the semblance of a relationship, however slight. You need trust. Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, rich media and the potential of broadband will allow us to touch our audiences in a whole new way. You’re SO wrong, Nick.”

No, I’m not.

Consider Peter and Nick, going out on a date. Not together. We both have first dates with the girls of our dreams.

Peter meets his girl at a nice restaurant, says hi and pulls out his laptop computer. This is an important moment for Peter, so he’s prepared a terrific babe-magnet presentation on PowerPoint. He’s got photos, animation, movie clips. Here’s a rich media moment that just can’t fail. He’s got the tools!

Meanwhile, Nick, forever modest, goes on his date and he and his girl just chat a lot. Talking and listening and getting to know one another. One step at a time.

True, Peter’s date has had a pretty unique experience that she’s unlikely ever to forget (dates from hell, part one). But Nick’s approach, all other things being equal, is more likely to result in the start of a relationship.

Is it a stretch to suggest that this analogy can be applied to ecommerce online? I don’t think so. I think the same rules apply one way or another. Given the choice, I’ll always invest my money in finding ways to touch prospects and customers one-on-one.

So go nuts with your rich media and fancy convergence plans. I’ll bet on the power of a few carefully chosen words to create profitable relationships.

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