Friday, July 13, 2001


Don't try this address after July 12

Another one bites the dust:
Not to be disrespectful, but the Internet World is changing steadily.

HomeRuns.com didn't last quite a year in DC, and it started about 5 years ago in Boston (as I understand its legacy), but the end came fast for casual observers -- although it wasn't a rush decision.

Some of the employees seemed to have sensed something when a standing inventory was taken. A part of this is that the long-distance medium hasn't done well -- yet -- with "short run" commerce. I wouldn't wonder: If I wanted to order a book from Amazon -- I'd know that I could find out whether the company had it -- before I'd ever be able to find it by combing local bookstores. I might even be able to put in an advance order -- before it was printed -- which might be valuable if I were in the midst of a hot task and could order a reference with anticipation -- without stopping. If I wanted a pizza, or if I were going to take a trip to the grocery -- I think I'd use it as a way to step out for a break and get some fresh air.

If I were a few years older, I might consider taking my constitutional at a time of my choosing -- especially if I were already retired -- or even semi-retired. Part of the problem is that Internet culture has only reached a fraction of the Seniors Market, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise. It is all well and good to cite those exceptions among our personal acquaintances -- the aware few, and commercials that underscore the participation of seniors abound, but the truth of the matter is that this is a very hard market to reach -- though none of us are getting any younger.

Maybe this is the note on which investors and entrepreneurs should end. Venture capital is withdrawing at alarming rates and we have gone far beyond a panic. A panic is a quick reaction (knee-jerk as some of my friends prefer) that corresponds to a short period of overcompensation, after which balance is restored. This is not what is happening: More Voodoo economics? The market response is a wholesale rejection of the prophecy for our New Internet World.

This new world isn't here yet -- the key word here is yet. I don't mean that it will wait centuries, I mean that it is a cultural change -- and one that could happen rather quickly. What could change it? Advertising: Internet advertising -- in many cases, but not all -- preaches to the choir. The most fundamental idea of advertising is to inform: Mailing campaigns and radio/television advertising might be more appropriate because it reaches people who are not already there, or in this case already here. Persuasion will help after people are aware of the possibilities, and not before.

The answer is not to give up hope: All the promise is still here. It may be true that you can bring a horse to water without getting it to drink -- but it doesn't mean that it is never worthwhile to bring that horse to water. That's what we need in this market -- more horse sense.

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