Tongue in Cheek: A portal to my heart

There's a reason why it seems like it was only yesterday when Web sites were the latest and greatest. It's because it was. But today, is today, and the Web site is passeRemember the days, oh so long ago, when it was cool to have a Web site. When your company could stick it up the competition by being the first to launch onto the Internet. When you suddenly became a hip and happening company because you were then able to now put those magic letters -- ".com" -- on your business card.

Simple times, weren't they? All you needed was a company logo, some snazzy graphics, preferably with a bit of groovy animation and some accompanying marketing fluff and voila -- instant cyber cred.

Today, of course, having a Web site is passe.

I watched with amusement the other day as one webmaster went about boasting with verve and vigour about the latest enhancement to his Web site. When finally he left, the two peers he had been talking to just about fell over other each in hysterics.

"How 1998," they exclaimed, before cackling about how the antiquated developer had dared to use phrases like "ground-breaking" and "Web site" in the same sentence.

The Web site is dead, long live the age of the portal. Well, at least for the next six months or so until the next hot concept and associated buzzwords comes along.

Now, if you're one of those poor yesterday's cyber heroes, who until you began reading this column had believed that you were "happening" and "with it", fear not. I'm here for you. Here are six easy steps to taking your run-down, dated Web site and turning it into a whiz-bang, state-of-the-art portal.

Define your community. A portal acts as an electronic hub of a "community", that is a group of like-minded Internet users. The trick here is to find an untapped market of big-spending consumers. This is not as easy as it might sound. If for example you decided to launch a pet lover's portal, you'd be competing against pets.com, acmepet.com and pet.net. And they're just the big three. As far as I know there is not a portal for pet rock lovers, though. Yet.

Include a chat board. Unless you're a portal that has something to do with sex or dating then it's very unlikely anyone will ever use the chat board, but hey, you can hardly pretend to be a hub if your users don't communicate.

Develop meaningful content. This basically means rewording all the marketing fluff on your Web site to make it sound more objective. Remember, you're here to deliver a service to your community, not to sell stuff.

Sell stuff. Either that or provide links to people who sell stuff and then take a commission. The boom in portals is being driven by the belief that someday soon people will buy lots of stuff over the Internet and that portal will cash in on that boom.

Lose lots of money. While you're waiting for that happen, burn up extravagant amounts of money buying really big Web servers and paying really expensive Web developers. The more money you can lose the more credibility you have.

Sell the company or float. If you manage to lose enough money and do everything else right, then you should have no problem making squillions of dollars by selling or floating. Believe it or not, the aforementioned pets.com, sold out to mega-portal, Amazon.com for millions of dollars just last month.

Good luck. I'm off to build www.petrocks.com and lose millions of dollars. I'll see you on Easy Street.

Philip Sim is the editor of Australian Reseller News. E-mail him at philip_sim@idg.com.au.

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