Now that the internet makes everyone their own publisher, webmasters of large corporate sites are confronting a question traditional publishers and sideshow owners have grappled with for years – how to keep the audiences they attract. High hit counts are one thing, but unless viewers linger, sites won’t see the sort of return on investment […]
Now that the internet makes everyone their own publisher, webmasters of large corporate sites are confronting a question traditional publishers and sideshow owners have grappled with for years – how to keep the audiences they attract. High hit counts are one thing, but unless viewers linger, sites won’t see the sort of return on investment they would ideally like. Two kinds of web stickiness to trap flighty web surfers have been proposed in recent days. The first proposal comes from the startlingly named Honkworm International LLC. Honkworm has formed a joint venture with Rocket Pictures to help corporations capitalize on their investment in television advertising. Using Rocket Pictures’ video editing expertise, Honkworm says it can cut characters out of existing TV footage and re-use the images in short animated ‘webisodes’ for posting on corporate sites. One example of Honkworm’s strategy is a plan to leverage the popularity of the Taco Bell Chihuahua. People love those ads with the leedle dog, explains Honkworm CEO and Microsoft alumnus Johan Liedgren. Nothing on the web site even remotely resembles that experience. To bring the character to life on the web, Rocket Pictures can cut the dog out of Taco Bell’s TV ads to get a range of useful positions. Honkworm animators can then drop the Chihuahua into Macromedia’s Flash multimedia product to create daily webisodes. Users will come to the web site to check out what the dog is doing today, Liedgren claims. He says the method is cost-competitive. The price of a webisode ranges from $9000 to $35,000. Compared to a broadcast or banner ad campaign, that’s not even in the same league, Liedgren says. Why would surfers choose content with product placement over freely available, unsullied content? Liedgren responds: Hopefully this entertainment is going to be so good it can compete with other entertainment that is online. Text-based interactivity is at the other end of the spectrum from passive viewing of TV-derived content, but because no one really knows what will pull eyeballs and keep them, Usenet newsgroups have also been proposed as a means of making sites sticky. Following hard on the heels of Talkway (CI No 3,413) and Supernews, pioneering Usenet search engine Deja News Inc has announced plans to package Usenet as ‘Deja News Discussions’ for sale to sites. Such web sites have often featured chat rooms in the past, but it’s proved difficult for these artificial communities to reach self-sustaining critical mass. Usenet, by contrast, has around 4.5 million users and generates 11.5 million page views for Deja News per month, and as users can attest, Usenet posters just won’t shut up. The Austin, Texas-based company says network affiliates can select topic areas for Deja News to ‘seed’ with good discussions from its database. The affiliates’ forums will in turn be linked back to Usenet, with content replicated across the network every two hours. Deja News will charge affiliates per page view. Licensees can opt to sell ads themselves or have Deja News sell the space for them. Either way, the company says, the service solves stickiness and becomes a profit center for customers. It’s a bold proposal but it’s hard to know what America’s executives will make of the anarchy that is Usenet. Are mainstream consumers really ready for robust and frequently abusive newsgroup exchanges, or for the arcane shorthand in which they take place? More to the point, is Usenet ready for them?