The Internet is becoming the main source of news, rumour and other information. It’s a bit of an oddity these days when a business doesn’t even have a rudimentary website up as part of their advertising budget and if you’re a technology company then not having one is guaranteed to hurt your business. So as with all new mediums there comes a whole set of new problems and challenge, some of which companies seem to ignore in the hopes that they go away.
One of the biggest issues I see online media and business deal with is the Streisand Effect. In essence this relates to a company attempting to censor some information or cover up a potentially damaging gaff that they might have committed. However due to the sheer volume of people on the Internet it’s pretty much guaranteed that someone has already read or seen what they are trying to censor and will probably spread the word on what is going on. Failing that if the site has even moderately high traffic the Googlebot will have dutifully found it, crawled all the images and content and posted a lovely cached link under the site in their search engine.
So why do companies still attempt this kind of damage control on the Internet? The issue here is simple, until the industry accepts that the Internet as a community has an exceptionally good memory these kinds of incidents will continue to happen. In the past you could pull a story by catching the final copy before it hit the printers, or even stopping the delivery of the newspaper if it managed to get that far. Before that even you could keep something from getting out by making sure that the right people didn’t talk to the press, something that could be accomplished with a few quiet words and dollars.
The same can be said for the music industry. Right now the RIAA is currently battling in numerous courts all over America against people they believe to have violated their client’s copyright and are seeking damages against them. At the heart of this problem is the industry lagging behind what the consumer wanted and instead of innovating above what the pirates can offer they instead punish their potential customers. The writing has been on the wall for a while on this one, getting tough on piracy doesn’t seem to help their sales at all, so why continue to do this? At the heart of this problem is a business model that was based around the technological environment of the time and is unwilling to change and adapt to the market in order to keep it valid.
There are of course companies out there that have embraced technology to the point that they are ahead of the pirates when it comes to providing a service. Steam is Valve’s online game distribution network that started out way back in 2003 to mixed reviews at the time garnered mostly mixed or outright negative reviews, and rightly so. Over the years though it’s grown into a very mature platform for delivering content to end users and has become one of the default ways companies sell their games. One of the most surprising things that came out of Steam was the variable pricing that Valve allowed, which in some cases saw almost unbelievable increases of purchases when the game was on sale. Valve truly listened to the market when they created Steam.
Instead of trying to beat the Internet into submission companies now need to take a long hard look at themselves and their business models so that they can survive in this rapidly changing environment. If they don’t then all they’ll face is the backlash of the Internet community at large, which is now a force that can no longer be ignored.