June 1996

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Building "Webcentricity"

by Christopher Kresser

The Web is growing at an amazing pace. There are currently over 275,000 registered commercial Web sites, up 60% from 170,000 at the beginning of 1996. Despite concerns about the future of this new medium, marketers spent $42.9 million to place banners, or "links", on World Wide Web sites last year (Jupiter Communications, 1996). Sales of goods and services over the Net are expected to reach $2.9 billion this year, skyrocketing to $45.8 billion in 1998 (ActivMedia, Inc., 1996). What began as a network infrastructure which would facilitate the sharing of information between scientists and researchers has quickly evolved into a globalized commercial medium with a critical mass.

The dynamics of the Internet enable companies to perform many different functions within the confines of the same medium. There has been an increasing amount of attention paid to the potential of the Web as a commercial medium by a variety of popular media. Yet, perhaps due to the amazingly rapid growth of the Web and the difficulty associated with predicting how (and if) it will mature as a global marketplace, there have been very few attempts to categorize and evaluate the efforts of firms to market their products and services in this medium.

It is absolutely vital that companies who wish to market and/or sell products in this environment do not design their strategy with a traditional communications model in mind. The feature which distinguishes the Web from all other traditional mass media channels is the opportunity for interaction between the firm and the consumer. The Web is a many-to-many mediated communications model in which consumers can interact with the medium, firms can provide content to the medium, and in the most radical departure from traditional marketing environments, consumers can provide commercially oriented-content (Hoffman & Novak, 1996). In this new model, information or content is not merely transmitted from a sender to a receiver, but instead, mediated environments are created by participants and then experienced.

The role of companies on the Web, then, becomes to create such a mediated environment or "marketspace" in which consumers can interact with the firm and each other, receive and contribute information and content, and buy and sell products and services. In this article, I outline a framework which incorporates all of the necessary elements of a successful business model on the Web and offers examples of companies who are currently employing similar models today. This framework, which is partially adapted from Donna Hoffman's Commercial Scenarios for the World Wide Web, recognizes four distinct roles of companies on the World Wide Web:

  1. -Establish Online Presence

  2. Deliver Content

  3. Build Community

  4. Sell Products/Offer Services
These are not four separate opportunities for business activities on the Web; rather they are components of a robust, vertically integrated strategy. Companies wishing to develop a successful Web-based offering should incorporate all of these elements into their business model. [TOC]


Christopher Kresser ( has recently graduated with honors from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in Communications Technology and Social Change. Currently he is self-employed as a private consultant developing Web presences for companies and organizations.

Copyright © 1996 by Christopher Kresser. All Rights Reserved.

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