The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission made the right decision when it opted not to regulate new media services.
However, vendors who do business in Canada shouldn’t be so busy celebrating that they overlook one of the traditional areas of CRTC regulation: Canadian content.
Cancon, as the mandated content is affectionately known, is a staple of Canadian radio and television. Cancon regulations assure we are not rolled-upon by the cultural elephant to the south. We get Kids in the Hall in addition to Mad TV. In cyberspace, this takes a beating – how can anyone ensure the delivery of Canadian data, opinions and statistics?
Simple answer: you can’t, and the CRTC wisely recognized that regulations can’t ensure home-grown content. But that doesn’t mean Canadian high-tech consumers don’t want relevant content, such as Canadian pricing and availability information, stories detailing Canadian success stories, information on local representatives, etc.
The good news is vendors are getting better at providing this. Six months ago, surfers were more likely to be dot-commed than they are now. (Yes, “dot-commed” is a made-up verb. My column, my rules.) You’ve been dot-commed when you drill down into the Canadian version of an American vendor’s site only to strike U.S. data, or when you type in a .ca address only to be sent to a .com site.
Lately, dot-comming predominantly occurs within product sections of sites, where it may be less serious. Tech specs are tech specs, after all. Inprise.ca, for example, dumps you without warning into Borland.com when you click on a specific product, but otherwise Inprise does a decent job of delivering Cancon. Similarly, www.cai.com/offices/canada gets kudos for Canadian event listings and user group information, although search for CA’s Unicenter or Jasmine and you’re dot-commed before you can hit the Stop button.
A quick trip through the JBOPS ERP group (J.D. Edwards, Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP) also leaves a good taste in a Canuck’s mouth, with one notable exception.
Oracle.ca, jdedwards.ca, peoplesoft.com/en/worldwide/canada/ and sap.ca offer Canadian information on events, user groups, contacts and success stories. SAP even identifies links which lead out of the Canadian site. Baan, however, is a disappointment. Typing in baan.ca dot-coms the surfer with no warning, and when you finally navigate back to the supposedly Canadian version of the site, the only noticeable difference is a maple-leafed Baan logo.
And there’s no joy to be found in the Baan Passport offering, whereby surfers customize their on-line experience. When filling in the form, Canada is not listed as a “Primary Country of Interest” although Brazil and The Netherlands are there.
Other good Cancon sites include Xerox.ca (although all prices are in U.S. dollars), can.ibm.com (even though many links, including Developers, Year 2000 and Investors, dot-com you), corel.ca (which offers both Canadian and American product pricing), and sybase.ca.
On the wrong side of the street are Informix, which has no Canadian site, and – surprisingly – Nortel Networks. This Brampton, Ont., company has a bare-bones Canadian site, with almost all the useful information located over at nortelnetworks.com.
The lesson here is that a lot of information – such as product specifications – is not national in flavour, and one set of pages for the whole world is acceptable. However, if you want to sell to Canadians then include some Canadian content, even if the CRTC isn’t going to force you to do so.