Goodbye, Destination Web, Hello, Online Enlightenment

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

By Published on .

For the past 15 years, marketers have lived like kings online. We built ornate palaces in homage to ourselves in the form of websites and microsites. Each acts as a destination that embodies our meticulous choice of aesthetics, content and activities.

We still put a lot of time, effort and money into erecting these palaces, much as Louis XIV did in planning Versailles. And, for the most part, we have been rewarded handsomely for our efforts. For years consumers flocked to our sites, reveled in all we had to say, played with our toys and sometimes were motivated enough as a result to buy our stuff.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
That's what life was like in the good old days. But now we're in the age of online enlightenment. People (rightfully) have reasoned that they, too, can be creators, not just consumers. Content choices became infinite, and peers are trumping pros.

After years of erosion, it now it appears the destination web era is drawing to a close. This a trend digital thinkers such as Om Malik have long noted. In fact, the numbers prove it.

In March, the average American visited 111 domains and 2,500 web pages, according to Nielsen Online. What's worse, our attention across these pages is highly fragmented. The average time spent per page is a mere 56 seconds. Portals and search engines dominate, capturing about 12 of the 75 hours spent online in March. However, people-powered sites such as Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube are not far behind, snagging nearly 4.5 hours of our monthly attention.

In the post-destination web era, the secret to breaking through won't be advertising. A study from ARAnet, in conjunction with Opinion Research Corp., confirms what PR execs have known for years: We are far more likely to take action when reading online articles that include brand information (51%) compared with search-engine advertising (39%) or banner ads (25%).

Unfortunately, digital marketing is still wired for the destination web era. To succeed going forward, we have to change our thinking. "Earned media" through direct public engagement in the venues where our consumers spend time will become the only way to truly influence a behavior change. The greatest advantages will go to the first movers who embrace this shift. It's not too late.

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