By Sharon A.M. MacLean
I learned this first, big lesson the hard way: Keeping up with shiny new tools on the Web will overwhelm you and blow your budget. Commit to what works best for you.
Google first posted the name of the magazine I owned and published, Edmontonians, in 1998. I remember being dumbfounded that something called a search engine even knew about an independent magazine covering business people in Alberta. At the time, Edmonton still was a sleepy government berg while the world was in a state of anti-globalization: riots broke out in 1999 against the World Trade Organization, Starbucks and Coca-Cola were blasted for their part in corporate capitalism, and the Enron scandal erupted first in a long list of social catastrophes.
Back in the day, we designed a website for the magazine much like a print brochure. We had no blog, Facebook profile or PayPal account to order subscriptions. Twitter was eight years away from dreaming up 140-character text messages. Early digital photos looked like people had been photographed in coffins—lifeless.
The idea of creating a website was magical for me, though. I had been a fan of Marshall McLuhan since my student days studying mass media and knew that radio, television and the press became “an extension of ourselves,” as McLuhan put it in Understanding Media.
This tenet really makes sense to me today–knowing that most people with mobile phones keep them within arm’s reach most of the day and night.
We tested our first website in 1997 and the format changed multiple times over the next 12 years. We became accustomed to working with code writers who were not great communicators but who wrote code into the wee hours of the morning from their dark basements. I believed websites could reach new readers by sending out stories into cyberspace from our thought-leading columnists, disciplined editors and inspired photographers. No longer would we be restricted by the number of pages we could afford to print. Trouble was hardly anybody really knew our website existed unless they typed in the correct URL–without any typos. URL stands for Universal Resource Locator—another name for a web address.
New developments in websites, e-newsletters, apps, mobile, and social networks can be overwhelming if you try to keep up with the latest and greatest. We live in an age of information overload. “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003,” said former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt. In 2013, there are over 3.5 billion pages on the Internet. There always will be upgrades to be made and shiny, new tools to try out. Some of us relish these discoveries and learn fast. The rest of us need to buckle down to keep up, discover what works best, and commit to taking action where our new customers are living now.
Still, it’s magic to me.