Information Draws Visitors, Keeps Sites Afloat

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It was sad to see the closing of RadicalMail recently. RadicalMail was a rich media organization that presented e-mails in a streaming video and audio manner. It was a pioneer and a victim of the whole dot-com implosion.

I remember the first time I saw a RadicalMail e-mail presentation. It really portended the promise of the Internet, or at least what looked like the near future.

I also remember when my company first sent rich media messages to a series of opt-in e-mail lists. As the test messages blasted to several of our desktops, many in my company gathered around the PC screen to see the video/audio presentation. In a way, it reminded me of being a kid watching one of the first televisions being delivered and turned on in our apartment building in the Bronx (that presentation was a test pattern).

So why would a firm with such potential and a new medium have so many problems?

The answer came together for me when I attended the recent Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association annual conference in Washington. As I listened to the keynote speaker, I knew what the real magic of the Internet would be and why many of the best and the brightest failed. The words I heard were from the chairman of the event, who said, "At the end of the Internet war, we won, we survived!"

The truth is that not only had the print newsletters survived, but they have also thrived and introduced and are leading the way with their online versions. The magic of the Internet is that it provides information, and whether we target an audience or the audience seeks us, ultimately it is information seekers who want what any of us try to give them.

That is the big secret of the Internet. It is also the reason people read newsletters. It is not the flash, and it is not the size of the banner or the coolest site that wins the day. A well-explained e-mail -- text-based -- or well-written e-zine, or a good-old four-page postal No. 10 envelope package all are providing information.

From the marketing aspect, we are making an offer -- informing the prospect -- which is well explained through the creative efforts of the copywriter, but it is a reader who is going to respond at his own pace and his own time.

Direct marketing, interactive or otherwise, is, at the end of the day, a quiet one-to-one relationship -- not one-to-one marketing, but a one-to-one relationship that is really one-to-many marketing. It is from the organization making the offer, or the person writing the letter, speaking to the many individuals who match the profile of the targeted reader. If the marketer has done the job, that marketer is providing interesting information to the correct readers.

Could RadicalMail have worked? Maybe, if the whole dot-com marketing contingent understood who needed the Internet and who wants the Internet. They are the same individuals who want the information from a newsletter or who look forward to reading a magazine article or receiving a catalog in the mail.

Look at the sites that are still thriving. It is the information-oriented sites, whether they are commerce- or content-oriented.

A properly targeted offer providing the information needed to make decisions at the right price will always carry the day. That is what the dot-com market and all the rich media in the world have not provided -- at least not yet.


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