Websites are dead. Search engines are going away. Soon no one will care about the traditional commercial site focused on a company and its products.
At least, those are the contentions of John McTigue, EVP of marketing agency Kuno Creative, in his recent blog post Why Websites and Search Are So Yesterday.
Now, John and I have been following each other on Twitter for quite some time, and I have tremendous respect for him. But this particular post is nonsense. Poppycock. Hogwash. Baloney. Rubbish. Hooey.
John argues that rather than visiting websites, people will increasing turn to their “favorite feed app on the iPad and start flipping through that inexhaustible river of fresh content that keeps coming at you every day, 24/7. Professor Gelernter (David Gelernter, in a Wired magazine article) calls that a ‘time-based wordstream,’ because it doesn’t represent a single place or entity, rather a collection of content from everywhere that comes at you as soon as it’s published.”
Professor Gelernter and John certainly have a point in that streaming information (a Twitter feed being a prime example) is an increasingly popular way to consume web content (and time). Such information streams are great for discovery (finding information you didn’t even know you were looking for) as well as entertainment.
But, for any type of serious research, websites will remain invaluable for a long time to come.
Imagine, for example, that you’re tasked with finding the best social media monitoring tool for your company. Streaming information may very well have a place in your quest, but your decision process will almost certainly include search engines, blogs, industry news sites, industry analyst websites, blogs, and ultimately—once you are down to your short list (if not before)—vendor websites. They remain the most practical way for buyers to find a wide variety of information about the product (and/or service) and the company in one place; the kind of information it’s not practical for a stream to provide.
(John notes that though he has done all he “can to get found on the search engines—SEO, PPC, blogging and social media,” his website generates a trickle of leads for digital marketing services. This is admittedly a tough market in which to stand out, but—we have b2b software clients who routinely generate hundreds of web leads each month. I suspect John does too. Results clearly vary by market segment.)
Streaming information also ignores historical content. While a tremendous volume of new information of new content will be created in the next 24 hours, the very best source for a topic you are researching may have been written 10 months ago—or ten years ago. It’s sitting somewhere on a website, and you’re not going to find it without a search engine.
On the other hand, near the end of his post, John does offer astute advice: “If you want to sell your products and services online, you had better start rethinking the way you market them. It’s not about posting a sign anymore. It’s about engaging in a conversation, entering into and swimming in a stream.” Being part of the information stream is vital. It requires producing content in various formats (video, blog posts, white papers, presentations, infographics, etc.); being active in social media; and working with industry journalists, among other tactics.
All of these activities expand an organization’s overall web presence beyond just its own website. But that website will remain, for a long time to come, an essential element of web presence. When discussing “time-based wordstreams,” websites and search engines, the best marketing strategy is not either/or, but “all of the above.”
What do you think?