The first quarter of 2001 has been a shocker for many, if not most, online businesses, particularly those that rely heavily on third party paid advertising on their websites and in their ezines. It doesn't seem to matter who you are - Wall Street Journal or one-person webfront operation.
Hot on heels of spiralling stock indexes and dot-com failures, many people are just plain leery of anything that has an "Internet" label. As a result, many online business owners are shutting up shop, figuring that returns just aren't worth investment of time and money.
But wait. Let's take a deep breath and look at what's really going on here. You should be encouraged.
In beginning Internet was new frontier. With all those metaphors being bandied about all over place - talk of gold rushes, pioneers, gold nuggets just lying there for taking - "go west young man (or woman)", echoed in our ears, "stake your claim to your share of Internet riches".
And so every man and his dog and every woman and her cat slapped up a website and started publishing an ezine. After a while, our pioneer started making actual money charging for advertising on her website and in her ezine and selling latest information product and business was plentiful.
After a while, things started to level off. No longer experiencing heady rush of exponential growth on a weekly basis, things started to level out. Business remained solid, however, and our pioneer, now thinking of himself as a capital E "Entrepreneur" figured, OK, this is end of first big growth phase. It's time to start consolidating. And so our entrepreneur started investing in already-formed relationships, concentrating on existing customers, developing his "List" of contacts and joint venturing like crazy to try and sustain momentum.
But then things started to go wrong in promised land. All of a sudden most promising, courageous and innovative Internet businesses started to, well, bomb. All of a sudden, venture capitalists were demanding business plans that actually required business to turn a profit. No longer was it enough to be on cutting edge of an emerging new economy. Now all of a sudden bankers started talking about "returns on investment", "time value of money", and (shudder), "profit"!