In 1999, very few people knew what the long term significance of the Internet would be on ‘business-as-usual’. Many were designing corporate websites like brochures and thinking of these websites as just another extension of a company brand. The Internet was largely thought of as a medium that carried unreliable information. Intranets were where corporations posted company policies and business forms. Although most recognized that having a website was crucial for a business’s legitimacy, the implications of how crucial this was for the future of business were not well-known.
There was one particular group of visionaries that knew the significance of the online revolution. This group included “Doc Searls”:http://www.searls.com, “Chris Locke”:http://www.rageboy.com/index2.html and “David Weinberger”:http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/.
“The Cluetrain Manifesto”:http://www.cluetrain.com, published online in 1999 and in print in 2000 was a revolutionary and punchy view of the new economy. It warned business-as-usual with its top-down management and corporate-speak that it would not survive the Internet revolution. They boldly proclaimed that “markets are conversations” and that these conversations include consumers _and_ employees of the corporation itself. Ignoring those conversations or continuing to speak in mission statements and official company PR language, they said, is suicidal.
When re-reading “The Cluetrain Manifesto”:http://www.cluetrain.com today, the reader can merely substitute ‘blogs’ for ‘intranets’ to realize the significance of what Searls, Locke and Weinberger were saying. Their vision of how the Internet would disrupt the dominion of mass media has come to fruition.
Today’s media plans are shifting from the large traditional media buys to the creation of stronger online platforms for interaction. Corporations are (slowly) opening up the lines of communication between themselves and the public. “CEO’s are writing blogs”:http://prplanet.typepad.com/ceobloggers/. Websites are becoming less ‘corporate’ and more interactive. Progress is being made.
Five years after the printed text, the statements made in “The Cluetrain Manifesto” are finally “gaining wider credibility”:http://www.businessweek.com/@@ELHqTYUQK1o@@BoA/magazine/content/05_25/b3938601.htm, but is it too late? Does your company still tell their employees to pass all inquiries onto the PR department? Does your corporate website still look just like your corporate brochure? When you go online to find information about a product, does the experience leave you feeling flat? Can you think of examples of companies that epitomize the ‘markets are conversations’ model? Can you think of those who ‘just don’t get it’?