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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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March 4, 2008 9:50 AM

The Fickleness of Online Audiences

The meteoric rise of sites like Google and eBay have long dominated discussions over the potential for online businesses to realize explosive growth.

And this truly is a revolutionary aspect of the Internet, providing a platform that allows anyone to reach an audience of hundreds of millions of people instantly. Not only that, but this growth be driven organically by pure word-of-mouth rather than having to rely on massive marketing campaigns.

But there's an uncertain underbelly that lies beneath this remarkable revolution: just as easily as audiences can be attracted to a site they can go away.

This isn't a new concept as fads are as American as apple pie, but it's an important one to consider whenever a new online business has been built up based primarily on page views.

The Internet makes matters worse as there tends to be so many copycats so that when one site gets popular you're bound to see dozens more like it sprouting up everywhere, giving consumers more choices to distract them.

The world of Internet startups is littered with the carcasses of companies who didn't understand how fragile an online audience is, but it's not just the small fish who are threatened by this reality.

Just last week, for example, Google's stock took a hit upon news that AdSense click-throughs--which is a measure of how many times people clicked on those ubiquitous Google text banner ads--had dropped .3%.

While there have been many different reasonings for what led to that drop, the one thing that can't be denied is that if consumers decide they no longer want to click on those banner ads, then the very core of Google's business model will be seriously threatened

Another example is eBay. On February 18th, a group of disgruntled users--upset because of a recent hike in charges and change in feedback policy--started a boycott of eBay, which has resulted in new auction listings dropping off 13%.

Though neither of these examples have yet had a disastrous impact on either Google or eBay, and they're somewhat unique as these aren't necessarily instances of consumers running off to competitors, even still they highlight how fragile many Internet businesses are.

Simply put: Internet users can be fickle. And if you've built your business on the belief that everyone's going to stay around and continue using your service indefinitely, you're likely in for a rude awakening.

As while the Internet is the ultimate platform for reaching an audience of hundreds of millions, it's also the best way to lose that audience to competing services, dissatisfied customers, or the whims of a buying public always looking for the next best thing.


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