Parasites on the Web: The Jupiter Media Menace
Hundreds of companies have failed after spending millions developing fancy online "features" that nobody needs or wants. This web page contextualizes a critical analysis of a press release from a research company that supported this kind of excessive spending. [Update: see the sidebar.]
Don't trust everything you read online.
Parasites from Jupiter have been plotting to do away with functional, fast-loading, content-rich web sites, and mutate them into slow, bloated abominations laden with thick encrustations of Java applets, Flash animation, chat windows and (no doubt) blinking text, streaming media, and dancing logos.
The Internet is, for the time being at least, dominated by words. Web design is an important and useful profession; nevertheless, those web professionals who feel threatened by simplicity, and who therefore advocate funky high-tech doo-dads (popup windows, dancing paperclips, etc.) in order to protect their cash cow, make the web more aggravating than it has to be.
Jupiter Media Metrix does not actually sell the needlessly complex design services that they have advocated in the past; still, it appears to me that Jupiter feeds upon the living body of the Internet. Just as design gone amok sucks time from end-users who must sit and wait for swollen pages to download, useless and unsupported advice sucks energy and salaries from the designers, artists, and marketers who could be working for the common good of Humanity rather than simply puffing the bank accounts and egos of wanna-be web tycoons, like Jupiter Communication's notorious founder, Josh Harris.
In September of 2000, Jupiter Communications (now part of Jupiter Media Metrix) issued a press release which urges online retailers to ignore the vast majority of web users (who do not have cutting-edge computer equipment), and instead focus on the needs of the high-tech minority. Since so many in that high-tech minority have recently found themselves unemployed as a result of the dot-com meltdown, such a focus seems rather silly; indeed, few companies who have tried it have lasted for very long.
Since the document being examined is a marketing press release, it is excused from being balanced and objective; it simply wouldn't be a good press release unless it attempted to present Jupiter Communications as an important, useful, viable business; nevertheless, a quick analysis of the Jupiter Communications press release (focusing on the grammar and syntax of selected passages) will help us to determine just what it is that the authors are really trying to accomplish.
Gets More Complex
"Gosh, a streaming 3-D shopping interface! And to think, no successful e-commerce website offers 3-D shopping. What is Amazon thinking? Yahoo and AOL? Those and other top sites create a good, simple customer experience. Does Neiman Marcus actually think it can succeed with strategy that flies in the face of every top e-commerce site to date?" (goodexperience.com)
Critique of Old Kairos
"For the past few years, I have been analyzing and critiquing [the academic journal] Kairos in classrooms, faculty inservices, and conferences, offering it as an example of a high-concept site that buries valuable content behind layers of intrusive design." (Kairos)
The failure of the colossally over-designed "boo.com" is further proof that simply looking cool is not enough in the world of cyberspace. The glitzy online shopping website (which allowed visitors to rotate 3-d images of merchandise) blasted through millions of dollars, only to close about six months after its much-hyped launch. (Salon.com)
A Cautionary Tale
"Boo was so convinced it was changing the world of e-commerce that it overlooked the truth that working technology matters more than fancy features. In the end, Boo is a testament to the unglamorous idea that panache will only take you so far." (TheStandard.com)
Just Ain’t Write: Finding Good Web Copywriters
"Online text stinks because the people who write it usually aren't professional writers, but web programmers, graphic designers, and others with hyphenated job titles." (ClickZ)
of Readers think Salon Premium content is worth the price of a latte
"Whilst it is obviously the case that the main reason subscription now represents 30% of Salon’s revenue is because overall revenue has fallen so dramatically, that doesn’t stop [CEO] Michael [O’Donnel] portraying it as a triumph. That is talent." (dotcomscoop)
|Update: Jupiter's Decline|
Layoffs and losses at Jupiter: Will we have Jupiter to kick around much longer? January 2001 layoffs; April 2001 layoffs; October 2001 layoffs (buried in paragraph 4 of a press release which nobody seems to have published).
Jupiter's stock in free fall. Jupiter's traded at $28 during 2001 but by October the price was 60 cents, and was 40 cents right after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Update: 13 cents as of May 7, 2002, when Jupiter, unable to make money by selling its advice, scored some cash by suing a rival.)
Dot-com meltdown. Jupiter hasn't been able to keep enough of its customers from going out of business, and is running out of fresh victims. One analyst: "There's a great sucking sound coming from the Internet" where Jupiter Media Metrix roams.
Who's Crying Now? A recent Jupiter press release about e-commerce shipping, supported a point by invoking the example of a customer who bought 200 copies of "Journey's Greatest Hits." Now that's valuable research. See the related CNet article.
--DGJ, 14 Oct 2001
Wired (19 Feb 2002)
Earth Calling Jupiter...
Jupiter Media Metrix
This is actually quite funny, if you're not one of the corporations shelling out the big bucks for Jupiter's advice. Jupiter is singing a different tune, hoping to sell its services to businesses that haven't yet been killed off by wasting money on dumb advice.
While I agree with the advice about staying away from expensive do-dads (which such time and resources from the production and of valuable content, well-organized content), the methods of this research project seem rather cheesy. According to the press release, the company sent out e-mail spam, in which it promised a chance to win $100 in return for filling out an online survey.
The company can't claim to have learned what people would really do; they can only claim to have learned how people respond to a survey that asked them to predict their own behavior. (See: "Usability Testing: What Is It?")
--DGJ, 16 Oct 2001