The Two-Year Itch

It’s hard to believe, but this month makes two years that we have written for ClickZ. We thought we’d take this time to reflect on the topics we’ve covered and whether our advice and rants have stood the test of time.

Looking back over our weekly columns, we noted one thing: For an industry that smugly considers itself one of fast-paced change, a lot remains the same. And while each week we tug our hair trying to come up with a new and interesting topic for our readers, we have also noted threads of the same theme that run through many of our columns.

More Is Not Better

In “Mo Better Blues” (Jan. 20, 1999) we discussed how more is not necessarily better on a web site. It’s a theme that has run through several of our articles companies are so anxious to jump on the next hyped bandwagon that they go about their Internet strategy in a haphazard way, further alienating their customers.

If a company does a boring site really well that is, boring old useful information geared toward a consumer’s needs it’s better than doing a flashy web site with databases and every bell and whistle in only a half-baked way. The mantra remains true: function over flash.

While corporate America has seized (or has a seizure over) e-commerce for the new millennium, most have missed the boat entirely. Databases break down. Print catalogs don’t jive with online catalogs different pricing, different inventory, different policies regarding delivery and returns.

The Internet is notorious for shining a magnifying glass on corporate mismanagement, inefficiency, lax customer service, internal turf wars and redundancy. Only those companies that are willing to lift the hood of their organizations and fix the fundamental infrastructure problems will survive the Internet. Otherwise, the magnifying glass will fry them like a bug on a sidewalk.

The Doctor Is Out (of It)

Health care on the Internet has been a big disappointment so far. While companies like Healtheon/WebMD have made splashy headlines over their acquisitions, patients’ lives and relationships with their providers have not yet fundamentally changed. Meanwhile, patients are losing their patience (no pun intended) with doctors who are refusing to let the control in the relationship shift.

The patronizing attitude among health care providers that people simply aren’t smart enough to care for themselves or make independent decisions is not wearing well on the highly educated Internet-connected audiences who are demanding the same online service from their doctor’s office as they get from their airline. (How many of you can make a simple appointment for an annual checkup or physical online?)

Kissing Cousins

The love affair between Wall Street and Silicon Valley continues. These star-crossed lovers are so obsessed with each other they’ve lost touch with the rest of the country and the world. Technology development has far outpaced society’s ability to adapt to, accept and embrace it.

We’re not suggesting that innovation slow down so a North Dakota grandma can catch up. But the kissing cousins have lost touch with the end user who, for the most part, is still slushing through a dial-up modem at home and has no wireless device other than the TV remote control. What we’re suggesting is a bit of humility for the coasts when assessing their importance to everyone else in between.

Two Degrees of Separation

We were right on the mark in our Jan. 13, 1999, article, “A Look Back, a Look Ahead,” when we predicted continued incestuous relationships among Internet start-ups. What we didn’t see coming so quickly were the mega-mergers between the likes of AOL and Time Warner. Seems everyone knows someone or has worked with someone at some company somewhere related to the Internet.

This makes it difficult to get the straight story from former employees. No one wants to upset anyone else, lest they earn the wrath of a possible future employer. So you don’t hear much about the companies that failed only about the wildly successful ones.

Do You Brand Chickens?

By far our favorite article has been “Internet Branding By Numbers” (Aug. 13, 1999), in which we take readers step by step through the process of creating an Internet company and its branding strategy. What’s unfortunate is that a lot of companies have taken that article seriously and have used it as their marketing plan!

After two years of contributing to ClickZ, some of the most fun we’ve had has been corresponding with some of our readers. We especially like the emails from dissenters who feel so passionately they practically spit at us from the screen. Hey, dude, it’s just the Internet it’s not real life!

So we look forward to continued rants and raves on ClickZ, and to taking this wild and woolly trip down the Yellow (or is that Gold?) Brick Road to Internet-Oz.

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