But now we draw things to a close with…
Reason 5: Because the web will die
The Web, according to Wired magazine, is dying, perhaps already dead (The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet): ‘Two decades after its birth, the World Wide Web is in decline, as simpler, sleeker services — think apps — are less about the searching and more about the getting’. If, like Stephen Bourne in the second of these posts, you are contemplating a future in which up to three-quarters of your business is in the process of migrating online, then rumours that your soon-to-be primary delivery platform, the open web, is about to go down the toilet, ought to ring a few alarm bells.
Too many publishers seem to want to create an online analogue for the library or bookshop. Perhaps it’s time we stopped thinking about sites altogether and started thinking ‘services’. iTunes would be a better role model for publishers in this regard, perhaps; because while there is an iTunes site, iTunes itself could not be remotely be described as a site.
I often catch myself saying of a track, ‘I’ve got that in my iTunes’, with no sense that I am using Apple’s marketing language. My iTunes, as I use the term, refers to all the music I have downloaded and ripped over the years. It’s as personal to me as my bookshelf. Somewhere on the edge of that is something called Genius that makes recommendations, and an iTunes store where I can impulse buy music if I want (all too easily), but it’s definitely not a site. Questions such as ‘what is iTunes’ and, more recently, now that it’s on my iPhone, ‘Where is iTunes’ become problematical. Perhaps that should be the acid test for how publishers offer their content online: if you can call it a site, in fact if you can describe it using any sort of offline analogue, it probably isn’t going to be durable in the long run.
Questions of ‘where?’ become increasingly about delivery, not about supply. If the web really is about to die, then geolocation is a critical part of what will replace it: the new, non-web net – with its panoply of RFID tags, photo-recognition, 2D barcodes, augmented reality, semantic mark-up and the rest.
So if content-in-context really is the future (can you possibly doubt it if you’ve read this far?) you had better make sure, as a publisher, that your content is in that context; available, accessible and discoverable in all the right places – which is to say, within the same map reference as your user, and precisely at her fingertips.