Putting the Internet to Work was published in the Spring of 1997. Today, 14 years later, Putting the Internet to Work remains both current and relevant. More than anything, the passage of time shows that while technology may continue to advance, basic business principles do not change. Looking back from today, it is surprising how long it takes society to adapt to these technological changes.

Other than slight changes to current terminology and references to companies no longer in existence, this White Paper could have been written today. Back then there was a battle between "push" and "pull" technologies for distributing news. While the technology for distributing news is no longer in flux, it remains unclear just who will survive in this new era and who will bear the ongoing costs of gathering the news. Companies that were giants of their day, such as America Online (AOL), are now shadows of their former selves while new entrants such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Groupon are all working to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate as earlier Internet casualties. While all these companies appear to be commercial successes today, most have yet to prove they serve a viable long term purpose for which individuals (or businesses) will continue to pay for access.

Throughout my career, I have worked with many different businesses in multiple industries. A couple of these businesses warrant mention as being successful at utilizing Internet technology. I am particularly proud to have led the team that envisioned, developed and implemented the business model for distributing press releases online. This model, first introduced by Canadian Corporate News (now Marketwire) in 1996 has since been adopted by other newswire companies throughout North America.

Other information companies that have been successful at transitioning their services to the Internet include Lexis-Nexis, CCH, Reed Elsevier and Thompson Reuters, to name just a few. What these companies have in common is that all have adapted to the Internet without devaluing their content. The success of these companies should be studied.

Their success contrasts with the experience of the newspaper industry which continues to see declining revenues resulting from how they first decided to use the Internet more than fifteen years ago.

Of all the companies I have worked with during my career, the one that has most impressed me with their longevity and ongoing viability is Inquiry Management Systems (IMS). This business provides support services to the publishing industry. Throughout my 20+ year relationship with this company, I have seen the benefits of their long term commitment to understanding and utilizing the Internet throughout its business operations.

To my knowledge, they have never focused on Internet fads that are of questionable value. A low tech data gathering operation when it first started in 1979, IMS invested the time and resources to figure out the best way to integrate computer and Internet technologies to improve their internal operations and as a delivery mechanism for their clients. Their continued success is a testament to this strategy. Had I written this White Paper today, it probably would have focused on how IMS has embraced these technologies.

This White Paper continues to present a current look at how companies can make effective use of the Internet. While the Internet of 2011 is a vastly different mechanism than in 1997, it is clear that many businesses have been slow to understand how they can utilize this technology as an integral part of their internal operations, marketing strategy and for customer service.

There is an important lesson here for franchisors. The Internet is far more than an advertising medium or mechanism for bringing customers through the doors of their franchised businesses. I consider this to be the low hanging fruit for those that fail to understand the true potential of the Internet. It provides a short term justification for "embracing" the Internet without really understanding the true value of this medium. Advertising may even be effective for some businesses.

However, the more valuable benefits of "embracing" the Internet require more effort. Improved internal operations, better internal communications and enhanced customer relations are all more likely to lead to long term success than short term advertising initiatives. Those that invest in these opportunities are more likely to succeed even if the Internet is found not to be an effective advertising medium for their businesses.

I have chosen to republish  Putting the Internet to Work as an aid to Franchisors in understanding how the Internet can be better utilized within their businesses.  Hope you enjoy it.

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