You can get what you want

Dec. 21, 2004
Not only that--the Internet allows you to talk back, take part, have a say.

It was the Grand Old Boy of Rock who intoned that "You cant always get what you want." Today, Mick Jagger can be forgiven the error, since he sang that little ditty long before the advent of the Internet. Actually, the Internet has made it so that you can get what you want. Maybe not the way Mick meant it, but certainly when it comes to information. Think about it. In the old days, say a decade ago, newspaper and magazine publishers decided the information you received. Ditto with broadcasters on TV and radio. Likewise with books. The only thing interactive about the print or broadcast media was that you did the reading, watching, or listening. Using a paradigm that had been around for over 500 years, print publishers typically ran off thousands or millions of copies and sent or offered one to every reader. Today, one copy is made electronically; readers simply log on and pull down their "copy" to read on a PC. The big difference is that you can go online and find almost any kind of information without ever having to darken the dusty stacks of a library reference or periodical room. Whats more, the Web also has a flip side that lets you talk back, take part, have a say. You can publish your own home page. You can communicate directly with others who have similar interests. Or, you can respond to information on other Web sites, ordering products, commenting on goods or services, and even asking questions. Using the Web to communicate is akin to driving a car in that there is nothing static or one-way about it. Youre constantly responding or interacting with the environment. As you drive along, signs provide information to tell you which way to go. Other drivers provide information, some of it desired and some not. At the same time you are receiving this input, you are creating your own route--the car goes where you steer it. Likewise, when navigating the Web, you determine where to go. No one is sitting back and dictating your destination. And in many cases, where you go and what site you end up at often is totally different from where you started out or where you originally intended to go. Okay, so where is all this "interactive" technology taking us? Is it really important for business? Figuring out just where the technology is leading is less important than how to manage it for your companys benefit. Managing effectively in the era of interactive communications will require a commitment on the part of corporate leaders to put existing products and services under a spotlight. Then they need to ask some hard questions. For instance, is there a fit for this technology with our products or services? What about a new product or service the technology makes possible? Is there an opportunity to provide information to customers using an interactive medium? How can the business be adapted to fit this communications revolution? Most companies by now have a Web site. Many have intranets. Some are marketing their products over the Web, while others offer customer service and answer frequently asked questions online. Still, despite the popularity of the new medium, few companies are taking advantage of the technology to connect with customers in a truly interactive way. Most assume that if youve clicked on their Web site, hey, thats interactive. Not! True interactivity, which the Web promises, means ordering a product, filling out a form, responding to a survey, self-designing the product you want, or _______________________. You fill in the blank. See? You can get what you want.

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