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Internet Marketing Time Warp at Warp Speed

Updated on February 15, 2019
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.


I love used book sales. Yes, though I run my business on the Internet, I love rummaging through stacks of old physical books, especially business books. Some are timeless. Others are stuck in a time warp that will cause me to chuckle and pause to reflect on how far we've come on the Internet marketing path... and how we've been moving forward at what seems like warp speed.

One of the books I picked up recently was eMarketing: Reaping Profits on the Information Highway by none other than leading marketing mind, Seth Godin, published in 1995, a mere couple decades ago as of this writing. Here were some of the topics he addressed:

  • Fax on Demand Technology.
  • Multimedia (CD-ROMs).
  • Marketing by Fax.
  • Bulletin Board Services (BBS).

What??? Is anyone using these for marketing anymore? Well, maybe a few still are. But then the last chapter in the book, covering only about 30 pages of the 262 page book, is dedicated to "The Internet." Today's standard search engines and browsers were still a ways into the future (anyone remember Gopher or Mosaic?). Two commercial online services mentioned in the book were AOL and Compuserve.

And to think that this was just 20 years ago. Twenty!

Why has Internet Marketing Taken Off?

The reason that Internet marketing seems to be moving at warp speed is because customers have adopted web technologies at an alarmingly fast rate.

According to the fact tank Pew Internet Research Project, as the Internet turned 25 years old in 2014, 87 percent of American adults were using the Internet (Pew Research). Compare that to electricity which took 30 years and the telephone which took 25 years to get to just 10 percent market penetration (MIT Technology Review).

One could argue that the infrastructure for the Internet required both electricity and the telephone to even exist, making the Internet's phenomenally fast market adoption rate dependent on the development of earlier technologies. As well, when the Internet was born, people were already much more technologically savvy compared to earlier generations. When the telephone and electricity were becoming commercially available, the Industrial Age was still in progress. So it might not be a fair comparison. However, there is no argument that the adoption of Internet technology has been extremely rapid.

Internet marketing has become a necessity for many businesses who want to stay connected with customers that have embraced the web and abandoned older technologies.

It's All About the Weather?

What's interesting as I read the now antiquated eMarketing book is that the things that businesses wanted to offer using "new" technologies are essentially the same as the things they offer today. Some suggested new tech uses included:

  • Weather reports and forecasts.
  • Updated price lists.
  • Ticket availability.
  • News releases.
  • How-to instructions.
  • Catalogs.
  • Appointment reminders.
  • Samples.
  • Sports scores and team information.
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs).
  • Keeping in touch.
  • Demonstrations.

Don't all these sound like information that websites, email and apps provide today? Of course they do! People's information needs don't change much over time. What changes is HOW and WHERE they get that information.

Need more evidence? See what websites were at the top of the Internet back about the same time the eMarketing book was written in this list and infographic from the Washington Post:

Surprised at any of the rankings? What's interesting is the types of sites that dominate the top 20 spots, year after year: News; email, search and browser services such as Google, AOL, Yahoo; and, (Weather Channel).

Yep, we're still concerned about the weather.

People's information needs don't change much over time. What changes is HOW and WHERE they get that information.

— Heidi Thorne

Keeping Up

As noted earlier, the pace at which new marketing technologies are being adapted and adopted can seem overwhelming, especially for small businesses and solopreneur micro businesses. What to do?

  • Keep Informed on Trends. Read and subscribe to blogs and news feeds that discuss not only the latest tech, but those that talk about the latest trends.
  • Don't Jump Immediately for Every "Shiny Object." It's tempting to immediately jump on board with marketing using the latest tech gadget, online tool or social media site, hoping that it will brand the business as progressive. However, that can be a huge drain on a business' finances and time. Carefully develop an integration plan that helps preserve precious resources while still making progress in the right direction. And ALWAYS monitor results! Just because it's the latest thing doesn't mean it's the greatest thing for every business.
  • Commit to Adapt and Adopt to Serve. Continually survey and monitor the company's audience and customer base to see which newer tech sales and service methods might be welcomed.
  • New Methods, New Markets. Sometimes adding new technology into the marketing method mix can open up new markets with new needs. Determine whether the organization is ready for that investment and if it fits the organization's larger goals before diving headlong into new marketing technology directions.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2015 Heidi Thorne


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