Corrections or additions?
Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January
5, 2000. All rights reserved.
The Internet: After the Hype
Call it a promotional freebie. A grace period. For a
good part of 1998 and 1999, just about every dotcom company was
its 15 minutes. All that is coming to an end, says Mark Feffer,
founder of Tramp Steamer Media, multimedia publishers. "I believe
we’re entering a new era of the Web — the Come-to-Jesus Era,"
says Feffer, a former journalist. "At the end of the 1990s it
was a gold rush — a lot of people getting a lot of money for a
lot of weird stuff without even worrying about revenue. I don’t think
that’s going to happen any more."
Businesses are going to have to cough up tight business plans and
more creative content on the Web if they want to be taken seriously
by the investment community and the audience of web users, says
who speaks on "The Internet: After the Hype and the Hoopla,"
on Thursday, January 13, at the meeting of the Industrial/Commercial
Real Estate Women at the Newark Airport Marriott at 5:30 p.m. Joining
Feffer is the president and CEO of New Jersey Online, Peter
Call 973-325-2700. Cost: $45.
"The economic and financial rules are going to change," Feffer
says. "It’s going to be much harder to get money. Internally,
executives are going to demand much more solid business cases than
they’re getting, and companies are going to have to make a better
case than `everyone’s doing it, lets market it to death and get
to the site.’"
Likewise, a successful web business will need to be more than just
an E-commerce site or a vehicle for some flashy new technology.
say that the Web is a technology business is to say that network
is a technology business," he says. "Ultimately, it’s what
gets broadcast that matters."
It’s the content, stupid. "When I say content I don’t mean
video," says Feffer. "The ground is going to shift. People
who put a lot of money into Web businesses are looking for new things
to add to their information, and what I think they’re going to have
to add is information — beyond just buying something — they’re
going to have to add depth."
Feffer, who graduated in 1982 from Boston University with a bachelor’s
in broadcasting and film, has been creating online content since the
mid-1980s. After working as a videotape editor for a Boston production
company named Multivision, with clients like Digital, ABC News, and
CNN, Feffer got a master’s in journalism at Northwestern and was
to Dow Jones in Princeton. Starting there as a writer for online
Feffer worked his way up to product manager of Dow’s private investor
products group. There he helped develop information applications
and in 1994 served as producer for "Plan Ahead for Your Financial
Future," the Wall Street Journal’s first interactive CD-ROM.
He founded Tramp Steamer (nautical imagery drawn from his hometown,
Boston) in 1997; the company develops concepts for websites and
of companies such as Dow Jones and Xlibris. The year he was named
among the top 100 multimedia producers in the U.S. by AV Video
Unlike other multimedia companies, says Feffer, Tramp Steamer’s port
of departure is concept — not technology. "When we talk to
clients I ask what is the point of this website, what do you need
it to do? We don’t deal with graphic design or programming until the
second step of our methodology — those are often the first step
of most developers. We spend a lot of time trying to understand what
the website is supposed to do in the overall context of the
The people who are really changing the Web are a new generation of
users, not just the producers, says Feffer. "The people starting
to get online today are getting online not because they want to but
because they have to — their businesses or families are leaning
on them," he says. "They’re coming in with a whole different
level of demand for ease of use. A lot of people on the Web today
think it’s OK that it’s hard to get info on search engines, but it’s
not OK. The search engines aren’t going to be able to get away with
indexing less than 25 percent of the Web anymore." Other sea
in our perceptions, says Feffer:
people that they don’t need to use the Web," says Feffer. "We
need to approach it with cold eyes, make a strong business case for
it. I talked to one guy who said I’m going to lose money for five
years, but I think it will be worth it. And that’s fair if he ran
a lot of people who say, we’re just stupid about the Web, but they’re
not stupid, and they do have experience with their own business, and
I think that those people have a lot of potential," says Feffer.
"If they were going to open another store they would ask a lot
of questions — those are the same kind of questions you would
ask if you were considering a website. Most customers don’t realize
that their greatest strength is their own expertise. If they look
at their customer base and businesses, they should be able to figure
out the logic of Web application."
says Feffer. "I didn’t think people would be throwing so much
money at bad businesses." He points to the Toys `R’ Us Christmas
debacle — its inability to fulfill its online orders — as
symptomatic of bad strategy. "That’s the flip side of
he says. "At the end of the day, the whole process is going to
slow down — I don’t think people will stop going online, or stop
launching online businesses, but the whole wave is going to slow down
How has the Web changed in the 20 years that Feffer has known it?
"Somebody asked me what’s the most dramatic thing about the Web,
and the first words out of my mouth were, `all of a sudden my mother
understands what I do’."
— Melinda Sherwood
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