We Were Never In Control

Back in the early days of my web development career, I went to a web conference in Little Rock. I don’t remember any other speakers that day except this one gentleman.

This was 1997 and not a lot was understood about behavior of people using the Internet and World Wide Web. This is especially true of the people in the print media. This guy had his fool proof plan for making money on the web: Don’t put content online unless it is sponsored. This guy was a newspaper guy. Not a web guy. He didn’t get it.

I asked him if he worried about people going to another source to get their information if the content they wanted was in a section that did not happen to be sponsored. He looked at me and asked “Well, who else is going to put it online?”

He had the illusion of control that the rules of online were the same as the rules of the print media. Back then, newspaper and other media outlets controlled the distribution of content. Especially small town publishers like the person who came up with this fool-proof plan. When you were the only news outlet in town, you can get by with that plan. And they DID have control. If it happened, they were the ones trusted to tell you about it.

What happened is that now everyone could be a publisher. Everyone could share information as it happened. Not only that, big names like Google and Yahoo started to infringe on the local media outlets’ turf.

He, and many others in the media world, did not know that they no longer had total control. They were like Wile E. Coyote when he would run off the edge of the cliff and for a moment, he would stand there suspended in air because he didn’t know gravity was about to take over and put a hurtin’ on him!

Many of those publishers and media outlets adapted quickly to the new order of things and leveraged their good brand name towards a solid online plan and many of them have survived. Many others became a casualty of the new order of things.

A friend of mine who used to be in the newspaper business confided in me not long ago, that he once said that the Internet would never replace the newspaper. He then went on to say, “Man, were we ever wrong. We weren’t in control anymore. We never were from that point on.”