Web wisdom on its head

Before we drift too deeply into the new year, let’s air out more of the e-mail received here during the last one.

In a recent column about how the growth of e-commerce has unexpectedly increased the volume of mail-order catalogues sent to U.S. homes, I invited you folks to offer other examples of the ’Net turning conventional wisdom on its head. Among the replies:

“Initially, it was thought that online banking would sharply reduce the number of branches, and for a while banks were closing them,” writes Andrew Rossetti, CTO at a small bank in Delaware. “In recent years, however, most banks have reversed that trend, and some have taken it to a new level with not only many new branches and plenty of tellers, but expanded hours and seven-day-a-week banking. I guess bank execs finally realized that a significant number of people still like to sit and talk to someone about loans and investments.”

Bookstores certainly were going to go the way of the buggy whip once book readers got comfortable ordering online, and while many a mom-and-pop store has indeed fallen prey to technology, the anticipated extinction hasn’t happened.

“Conventional wisdom would have predicted the demise of Barnes & Noble stores several years ago due to the ’Net,” writes David Levitt. “The factors would have included Amazon.com or any online ordering replacing conventional store browsing, the proliferation of used books available online, and the Internet becoming an additional distraction from reading books…. I don’t have sales figures, but cruising the New Jersey highways does not indicate any demise or decline of B&N.”

Even the most fundamental presumptions about the Internet and business — you’ve got to have a Web site — remain open to question.

“In the early ’90s I went to a conference about the importance of a business having a Web site,” writes Stephen Nicely. “They predicted that if a business did not have a Web site, it would be out of business. I work as the IT director for a vocational training school in Oklahoma. Our Web site has been up for several years. We did a survey three years ago, and then last October, to determine what percentage of the people who attend our college used our Web site. Three years ago it was only 1 per cent. Last October it rose to only 2 per cent.”

Interesting data, but who wants to test the notion that Web sites are optional?

QuickLink: 064608

Send more. The address isbuzz@nww.com

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