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

grabbing

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

Feffer,

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

Levitan.

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

traffic

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.

"To

say that the Web is a technology business is to say that network

television

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

streaming

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

recruited

to Dow Jones in Princeton. Starting there as a writer for online

services,

Feffer worked his way up to product manager of Dow’s private investor

products group. There he helped develop information applications

packages

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

CD-ROMs

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

Multimedia

Producer Magazine.

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

business."

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

changes

in our perceptions, says Feffer:

Not everyone needs a dot.com. "I’ve definitely told

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

the numbers."

Business on the Web is still business. "We talk to

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."

"I didn’t think that the business was going to get so

wacky,"

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

E-commerce,"

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

a bit."

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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