by Mike Phillips, Senior Editor - Website Magazine
This article appeared in Website Magazine's June 2009 issue. Get monthly issues of Website Magazine by upgrading to a professional level subscription.
The term has gained buzz-word status since
its dawn during the rise of Web 2.0:
Transparency. It refers to the idea that we
should be completely open about what we do.
Our content should be syndicated freely
throughout the Web and the inner workings
of our businesses should be bare for all to see.
Even President Obama is on the transparency
bandwagon, calling for some of the darkest
secrets and inner workings of the U.S. government
to be open to the public, even the world.
But all fads come to end. All buzz words
eventually become tired relics of the past. And
transparency is no different.
We work extremely hard to create quality
content and products for the Web. As we
near a new decade on the Web, it’s time to
You might find yourself spending hours
creating a stellar blog post. Then you submit
your content to every bookmarking service
and social site you can find. You might enjoy a
spike in the day’s website traffic, and perhaps
make a few bucks from the resulting clicks on
your contextual or display ads. But too often
uninspired professionals resort to adapting
another’s content and calling it their own. And
just because this individual has more “friends”
or “followers,” or their website has more
incoming links, you — the creator of the content
— become an afterthought. It happens all
the time. You lose the traffic, revenue, incoming
links, and acknowledgement that is rightfully
yours. We’re also left with an Internet
choked with old, re-hashed ideas.
We all share a common goal. We want
to establish our brands as the best in the
business. And there might be no better
way to evoke authority than scaling back
Why not require a commitment on the
behalf of your users for the content or products
you create? Consider requiring registration
to your website and erecting subscription
walls before a user can access the best content
and features. If you spend hours of research
writing a professional-level paper, why not
charge a small fee for it?
The resulting revenue from a whitepaper
could far exceed anything earned by a
2 percent click-through rate on AdSense ads.
Leads generated from site registration could
result in recurring sales. Furthermore, you
establish an elite community of loyal followers.
They have made a commitment to your
brand. And you can bet they will come back
to get their money’s worth.
As the old saying goes, “the cream always
rises to the top.” If you dedicate your business
to producing products and content of the
highest quality, consumers will come. And
there’s absolutely no reason you should not be
compensated for your time and efforts. For
some businesses, it might be difficult to adopt
a new philosophy. In fact, it’s probably unwise
to take an existing, free product and suddenly
start forcing registration or charge a fee. But
maybe there’s room for an “exclusive” section
of your website. Maybe that great new idea
you’ve been working on is an excellent candidate
to start charging right from inception.
Let’s be clear: In no way does any of
this mean practicing deception. There are
instances where transparency is vital. For a
merchant, it might mean explicit and easy-to-
find return and exchange policies. For
bloggers it could be making our readers
aware that we are being paid for the content
we write. In any case, in those situations
where a user might feel deceived, transparency
is needed. So we’re left with a hybrid
of exclusive content and open knowledge.
For those who must have a buzz word to
go along with trends, maybe it’s time we start
talking about “opacity.”