The Limitations Of High Tech

As highlighted in "The networked corporation" (Information Technology Annual Report, June 26), the potential of the World Wide Web (WWW) seems to me to be greatly misunderstood. It is not a substitute for print: You can't read the Web easily over the morning cornflakes or on the bus. Nor is it a particularly good place for stand-alone corporate ads, because users can easily avoid these by not accessing them.

In my view, one of the greatest potentials of the WWW, with its low entry and distribution costs, is to allow niche players and specialists to gain a nationwide or global reach that would be prohibitive through other forms of marketing (direct mail, print advertising, etc.). The key, however, is that the WWW presence must provide useful information--not just an ad--to give targeted users an incentive to keep "tuning in."

The WWW has turned the cost calculations of publishing on their head. We have launched a Russian Business Information Service, which includes not just articles but also information provided by Russian companies. Printing all this on paper and distributing it is not a viable option.

Of course, low costs also mean that much low-quality material is placed on the Web. The challenge, then, just as in print publishing, is to provide high-quality information in an easy-to-use format and to stand out from the clutter.

Peter Gordon

Image Alpha Ltd.

Hong Kong


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