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Internet Brothers: Helpware for the Cybercommunity - Interviews with the Masters

Interview with Wally Gross - Part 5

Polishing the furniture [WG] Last year I had a conversation with Mel Strocen of the most excellent resource and directory, Jayde On-Line, during which we discussed the portal concept. I feel very strongly that the delivery of content is of prime importance on the Web. When I started Surfers Choice Awards in 1995, and the portal in 1996, my focus was on high quality content. It is a niche I liked, and I believe we constructed a somewhat recognizable brand in so doing. We also talked about the demise of the banner ad and the probability of fees for site submissions. This is happening as we speak. Search engines, directories and portals can no longer simply index everything in sight. The Web is growing far too fast, and the resources to keep pace are simply inadequate. Sites that present good content will be indexed, others will need to polish the furniture or simply sink in the hot lava.

Consider the recent introduction by Infoseek of its directory. All sites are reviewed by humans — yes, real people with eyes, ears and opinions. Their index spidering has also changed. Similar scenarios are cropping up all over the Web. At Surfers Choice we don't need to change a thing; it's been that way since day one.

Many of the so-called Gurus stated that 2000 will be the year of death for the portal. Well folks, I am not a guru (self-proclaimed or otherwise), but I will suggest to you that portals will grow and flourish in this year, and certainly for a while to come. Either these pundits don't understand what a portal is, or they simply don't understand the heartbeat of the Web. These days people want content and service at prices that don't require budget meetings. More and more companies (and yes even those of Fortune 500 fame) are asking employees to work from home, at least part of the time. Information must be near at hand and its delivery must be quick and accurate.

Doorway to the Web Take a look at Yellowbrix, a new service introduced by a few former employees of Infoseek. Do you think they might just know something about the Web and it's demographics?

Contextual portals are the new niche on the Web. The pundits may rename these sites with another label, but they will still be portals. A site that provides a doorway to highly focused and rich content is, and always will be a portal. Sharing of information will become a force on the Web. That's exactly where I am going to take TechnoMax, and I am absolutely certain of it. Successful Internet sites will need to deliver content efficiently and accurately.

[IB] Obviously the makeup of a web site will determine its method of promotion. How should the business site act differently from the personal site, or from knowledge exchange sites? What about newsletters and other opt-in email programs? Will WAP turn everything upside down?

[WG] A business site should act very personal in it's content delivery. That may seem simple, but all too many are missing on this one. Visit Internet Day and see my article on Web sites that shake hands.

Think about the business sites that really impressed you. I'll bet they had a nice way of interacting and making you feel comfortable. When I am off hunting for information on the Web I am in a rush, isn't everyone, so when something reaches out and grabs me, I'm more likely to stick around. This applies mostly to sites that sell one, or a few services or products.

When I visit a directory or search site, I want to see the search form right off. Later I can delve into the other levels of the site. Search result pages are where many could improve — myself included. This is a place to deliver the site's personality. Well I guess there's always something to improve and change.

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I think all sites, business and personal alike, should look at exchanging links. However, it must be an ordered and sensible approach. The days of getting volumes of hits to a site because we want to deliver ad impressions are over. We must look to getting qualified leads and interested visitors. Of course many sites have recognized this for quite some time now, but others are lagging behind. For example, if I sell widgets and you sell the bolt that holds them together, should we not be linking to each other's sites. I think so.

Without any doubt newsletters and opt-in mail are the single most effective means of marketing. Both are e-mail related and that is the Web's most used service. Spamming is not an option, unless of course you want to shut down your on-line presence in one foul swipe. It is unfortunate that spammers are still allowed to operate on the Web. Honest folks are suffering for it, since people eventually will simply turn away all e-mail— even permission granted. It is paramount that they are stopped, so permission marketing and opt-in services are allowed to flourish.

Leathery-winged demon Doesn't it just drive you to the point of insanity when you are e-mailed crap that says, "this is not spam, you are on our opt-in list?" Yup, sure loser, I want to receive your garbage about buying a totally illegal decoder or a University degree. Give me a break! Isn't there an isolated island somewhere, or maybe a planet, where we can send these low-lifes? Of course as we send them off, we'll let them know that they signed up voluntarily for this holiday in hell and that the leathery-winged demons aren't real.

As far as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol - the Web on your cellular phone or Palm Pilot) is concerned, I only wish I was its inventor. I think it's a boon to us all. It is always normal to fear change, but this is just another piece in the puzzle that makes up the Web and it's evolution.

Developers cringed when WebTV first appeared. Now they throw another curve ball at you fine people. I can't say anything about its implementation, for I have little information. However, I am sure that the W3 will work closely with those providing the technology to establish some form of standard protocol.

It's just another tool in the box, yet another way to provide ease to our business lives, or even personal lives. But that's all it is. No technology out there can play a game of golf with you and tell stories over a beer later; or lean on your shoulder when your friendship is needed. It's just another tool in the box, that's all, nothing more.


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"Sites that present good content will be indexed, others will need to polish the furniture or simply sink in the hot lava."







"Information must be near at hand and its delivery must be quick and accurate."







"...when something reaches out and grabs me, I'm more likely to stick around."

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