Why Websites and Search Are So YesterdayIn a recent Wired article, David Gelernter argues that websites, search engines and computers, as we know them, are going away and are being replaced by streams of information. Think about the difference between say, your website (as awesome as it is), and an app like Flipboard or Twitter on your iPad. Your website is pretty static, right?
Maybe you publish a new blog post every day (if you’re doing well), but other than that, it doesn’t change much. Now start up your 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 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. It’s up to us to dip into that stream any way we care to.
Social Media, The Precursor
Most of us are at least familiar with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. These are time-based wordstreams (and photo and video streams) that have been around for a while. We don’t think of them as websites, rather as hangouts—places to experience the thoughts of our friends and family or people we trust to provide us with valuable information or entertainment. There’s an overwhelming amount of content—far too much to absorb without some serious filtering, so we narrow down the pipeline by limiting it to people we know and trust in most cases.
You can still search these streams, but it’s more fun to just let them flow and see what turns up. I have tons of friends and followers, but I only listen to a few. Why do we enjoy this type of Web experience so much? Because it’s spontaneous, up-to-the-minute and personalized. We are tuning in to content we want to read and view, and we are seldom disappointed. On the iPad (and elsewhere), we’ve now refined that experience to a pleasant throwback sensation, browsing through a magazine as we flip the pages and gaze at beautiful images that attract us to read more.
The Demise of the Static Website and Search Engine
Now compare that emotionally satisfying experience with that of the average static website. No comparison, right? The content is stale and seldom gets refreshed. The site is laser focused on a company and its products. Who cares about that? Sooner rather than later, no one will care. Why? Because it’s so much more satisfying to dip into a stream and see what people are saying right now, or tomorrow or next week. Let’s look at an example.
I’m selling B2B digital marketing services. My prospects are mid-large size company CMOs. These folks are very busy, and they don’t have the time (or the desire) to browse thousands of websites looking for new solutions, so most of them never find me. I have set up a nice website, and I’m doing everything I can to get found on the search engines—SEO, PPC, blogging and social media. OK, so now I’m getting a trickle of leads every day. What’s wrong with this picture?
The problem is that the universe is changing before our very eyes. People like you and me and those CMOs I want to attract don’t want to “browse” with a browser anymore. We don’t want to “search” with a search engine either. What we want to do is dip into a stream and listen to a conversation about digital marketing, or skeet shooting, or whatever. It’s not a branded conversation, or a website, or a search—it’s something else entirely. It’s a time-based wordstream. You are free to filter the stream, tune in different channels and engage in the conversation yourself. What could be cooler and more enabling than that?
The New Web Presence
A few years ago, David Gelernter and others predicted traditional point-to-point websites and search would give way to streams of information, and you can see this happening today. How long will it take to replace the “traditional” digital memes entirely? We’ll see. Old habits die hard. But that’s not really the point. The point is that it’s happening—fast. 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. Google knows this. That’s why it is hard at work replacing the search engine with Google+. I’m not saying you should abandon your website today. But why on earth aren’t you out there in the wordstream playing in the water with your prospects and customers?
Photo credit: audreyjm529
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