December 29, 2008

The Web: Nr. 2 News Information Channel

What many of us though inevitable seems to happen already. After becoming the nr. 2 retail distribution channel the Internet reaches a new milestone of its history by becoming the nr. 2 information channel. According to the results of a survey published by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press on 23 December the Internet has already overtaken the newspapers as news information source in the USA. Of course the Pew survey is limited in the US but I would not be surprised if the same thing is already happening in some of the EU countries (and possibly more countries in the world). The survey has looked to the position of the different media as sources of information of national and international news.

While I feel glad with this development I would like to identify two issues requiring some thought.
First of all I want to warn about the overestimation of this development by raising a red flag when it comes to the quality of all information posted online. On this point I share some of the caution of Andrew Keen and others about the fact that much of the online news content is provided by anonymous and sometimes dubious sources that play journalist without being one and more importantly without being accountable to anyone for what they publish online. During the recent riots in the city I was born, Athens in Greece, I read several ‘eyewitness accounts’ that for all intents and purposes were lies and also came across much nonsense labeled as ‘opinions’ indicating that some of my countrymen might need urgently psychiatric help or even detention that will prevent them from committing serious crimes. This of course is happening in many similar situations or conflicts; the global and uncensored Internet offers to everyone a forum and the issue of the Internet censorship remains a hot and controversial topic.
The second remark has to do with the “business” part of the story. Next to the importance of this development as indicator of changing human behavior with regard to media consumption the fact that the web has become the second most popular news channel should persuade the last of the doubters about the swift in the media world in general. While the internet as news provider is by now the nr 2 source it has been long ago the nr.1 source when it comes to business-, personal- and product information.
What I keep saying to my MBA students but also to business people when I have the opportunity is that it is now high time to look once and for good to their company’s online presence in the knowledge that for their customers the web site is the first and often most important criterion of customer quality perception about their firm and products (anyone who doubts about this should ask himself or herself if this is the case or not on personal level). After 15 years of Internet one would say that this is a non-issue by now, that CEOs have now understood the importance of that “Web Thing”. Have they indeed understood it? I am afraid most of them haven’t