Nowadays, it’s no longer a choice between the A and B piles. It’s no longer a choice between hundreds of stations or channels. It’s a choice between millions if not billions of options called “websites.”
But there’s something else.
The Internet has multiplied not only the number of options but also the number of choices, too! (If you want a hint, think of those choices as “applications.”)
From millions of web pages (as opposed to just hundreds of direct mail pieces, TV channels or radio stations), to various delivery methods for each one (e.g., text, audio and video), to additional applications that equally demand attention (on the web as well as on a computer desktop), a user’s choices have therefore become exponentially more complex.
In other words, your web salesletter is now competing not only with millions of other websites but also with email, instant messengers, RSS feeds, web-based applications, and desktop programs, all of which are vying for your reader’s attention, as well as their input.
Thousands of new interruptions are notifying them of something they must attend to, such as the latest email, some instant message or a recent blog post. And that short list is more of a minimum than it is the norm, I’m afraid.
Let me share with you my situation to give you an example (and keep in mind, being a copywriter I’m not as active as most marketers). Aside from the applications I mentioned earlier, as well as the typical antiviral and anti-spyware programs running on my desktop, I also have:
- Numerous statistics programs running in the background that track my websites, analyze my server logs and manage my split-test campaigns;
- A Clickbank® program that notifies me when I made a sale, manages my affiliates, publishes my sales and commissions reports, and more;
- A PayPal® monitoring software that instantly notifies me when a sale is made or when someone makes a payment to my account;
- A Google AdSense® tracking and reporting tool that notifies me, every 15 minutes, about my current earnings on all my websites;
- Helpdesk software that keeps me in constant contact with my support staff who handle all my orders, queries, contractors and billings;
- Fax software that allows me to send and receive faxes from my computer desktop at a moment’s notice; and more.
And that’s just an iceberg’s tip. They do not include web applications online that are competing for my attention, too (including word processors with which I write my clients’ copy, as well as programs that manage and run my promotional campaigns, mailing lists, websites, you name it).
As the saying goes, we are being “pinged” from a variety of sources.
That’s why I call this the “ping factor.”
We are constantly being pinged. But if the ping factor isn’t enough, Web 2.0 makes it even more complex. Just as satellite TV has pushed standard cable TV to new level, so is Web 2.0 pushing the ping factor to a new level as well.
MySpace has its own proprietary messenging system. Google Talk and Skype allow you to make and receive phone calls via the Internet. Browsers are now tab-based rather than window-based, allowing you to have a multitude of websites open at the same time that flash when they need your attention.
And the list goes on.
Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at how Web 2.0 is not only changing the Internet but also distancing it even more from other media.
Hype notwithstanding, if “Web 2.0” exists it’s because something is indeed going on, whether we realize it or not. After you peel all the layers of controversy away, you’ll start to notice how Web 2.0 is really affecting our industry.
But the changes are not as overt as you might think. While the hype may have been instigated by creators of new web applications, the hype itself didn’t cause these changes to occur. In fact, they were the result of them. The buzz simply brought it to more people’s attention.
So if you’re trying to cut through the hype and trying to understand how things are really changing, simply look at the underlying patterns, trends and behaviors on which the hype was created in the first place.
I know this personally, as I’ve seen and experienced some of these changes firsthand. Tests are starting to show a shift in the way people surf, read and, of course, buy online. (It started gradually, but the momentum is building.)
For example, I’m seeing long-copy salesletters losing their effectiveness, and shorter copy starting to outsell them. As a proponent of long-copy salesletters myself, you can imagine how much of a wakeup call this was for me. And if you’re a copywriter or a marketer, it should be your wakeup call, too.
Is it truly the death of the salesletter? Not really, so don’t go sounding the alarm bells yet. They’re not disappearing. However, the current long-copy, long-scrolling salesletters that are so pervasive nowadays are indeed being replaced.
Perhaps it’s better to call it a new “sales process” rather than a new salesletter, because the salesletter, in principle, is here to say. It’s just the way the message is delivered, and how people read and respond to it, that’s really changing.
With web 1.0, static messages were thrown at the user in the hope she will read it, get moved by it and act upon it. And the popularity and level of success of a website, beyond response, were largely based on traffic and pageviews.
While pageviews will always remain a useful statistic, as more sites become dynamic, database-driven and “widgetized,” pageviews will become less valid over time. (I’ll come back to what “widgetization” means in a moment.)
Simply put, the web is turning into a more interactive medium, as it was meant to be from the get-go. As a result, we’re going to see fewer pages serving up more content on the fly and in different formats, than in single, long-scrolling web salesletters or opt-in forms.
Sure, technology will play a big role. But Web 2.0 is not about technology, as some might suggest. It’s about people. And human nature will never change.
Therefore, the tools, processes and applications we now have at our disposal are not going to create a massive transformation. They are simply offering us an opportunity to analyze audiences more effectively, deliver messages more effectively and obviously sell them more effectively.
In turn, they grant our prospects the opportunity to do what they always wanted to do, from getting the information they want in the way they want it, to choosing how they want to buy, rather than how you should sell them.
For us marketers, giving the user a voice and more control over their content means letting them tell us how they want to be sold, rather than interrupting them with your sales message in the hope they will read it and respond.
That last paragraph is crucial, so it bears repeating: Web 2.0 is about giving the user more control and selling them in the way they want to be sold.
Or let me rephrase it differently so that you truly understand its significance: it’s about what someone wants when they visit your website (judging by what they say or do), rather than it is about what we think they want (judging by what pages they visit or what links they click on).
So now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at what all of this really means in more specific and concrete terms.