February 24, 2009 10:10 AM
Would you take business advice from somebody who has no real business background or experience? Probably not. But that’s exactly what hundreds of thousands of industries, companies and executives across the country are doing with relation to business and the Internet.
It’s the downside of new and disruptive technologies. It brings the best and the worst out of a market. It lowers the barrier of entry, opening the door for a flood of new people taking advantage of opportunity. The downside, unfortunately, is that it also creates a lot of noise for businesses to sift through.
It can become hard to qualify who to truly listen to and what advice to follow, often resulting in costly mistakes.
For the past year, the trend in business has been to create a “personal brand” and the Web makes it easier than ever. But a high level of exposure or visibility doesn’t always mean experience. In fact, in today’s market, it can often mean the opposite. Many who speak on panels or push for media/blog coverage are not necessarily doing so because they have viable experience and information to share. Media, bloggers and conference organizers often select contributors on the basis of their media presence or association with large companies versus real background and experience.
It can mean that you’re taking business advice from someone who has very little real experience in business.
There is little vetting in most online and traditional media outlets today. A major business television network had a guest on several times last year that had no previous business experience and wasn’t even employed. Last year, a big brand signed a deal with a well connected blogger only to find backlash and embarrassment. At a panel discussion including digital executives of many top companies last year, attendees were whispering about how the panelists seemed inexperienced in relation to the Web.
“He has no idea what he’s talking about,” is not what you want to hear about someone you’re paying a six figure salary to handle your online efforts.
I don’t blame people for being confused. The Internet is still relatively new. Those who are new to it will struggle. Even those with extensive experience can’t be 100% sure of what works. But for businesses of all types, it can mean problems that cannot only delay the ability to adapt their models to the Internet platform, but also trouble for the rest of us. I personally would be reluctant to work with anyone who doesn’t have a background dating to Web 1.0 (1998-2000) to present. I don’t care how much of an overnight success he or she has been.
A lot of the lessons of the past can solve problems today. If your team has less than three years of experience in the market, they’d have no way of knowing this.
It’s why I created my company 9 in 2008, and have decided to write a series of technical white papers about the internet as a platform and how businesses can adapt. While I have an extensive background in the industry dating to 2000, including in IP at the engineering level and all facets of consumer facing sites, I’m not going to tap my personal experience or knowledge, but that of people who have been building the backbone of the Web.
It’s because in the nine years I worked in this area of the industry, I’ve repeatedly found it to be the most useful and accurate in mapping out how to do business on the Web. For example, by having a sense of what the Web is designed to do, I knew in 2004 what would be happening today with Web TV, that user driven content would be difficult to monetize and that social networking alone would struggle with keeping mass audiences sticky–all very true in the present.
The white paper will discuss what the Web is, current problems and solutions for the future, starting with TV business. I will post a link here when it’s finished.