The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

Information Superhighway

The “It” in the headline, of course, is the Internet, or the World Wide Web, or just Web or Net nowadays.*  But way back when, in the Clintonian Era (if memory serves), Al Gore, a lot of marketers and a bunch of other folks called It the “Information Superhighway.”  Thank whatever deity you choose that the name never really stuck.  Seriously, when was the last time you heard anyone under 50 use the term?

That’s because, as far as names go, Information Superhighway was beyond awful.  But as far as metaphors go, it was pretty darn good.  Probably one of the better ones to describe the coming onslaught of information and content on the web.  Plus, it gave clever writers lots of great material for punny copy and headlines, like “A breakdown on the Information Superhighway” or “In the fast lane of the Information Superhighway,” etc.  I’m not sure, but the name could be partly responsible why people still talk about “traffic” on the Web.  Sounds good, at least.

Why this sudden, random trip down memory lane?  Well, like I did today, when you drive back to Chicago from Cleveland, where I was attending Content Marketing World this week, you’ve got a few hours to think and some really straight, flat Interstate highway to navigate.  And you get to thinking about things.

Things like how the vast majority of businesses are now firmly committed to digital marketing in any number of ways, but usually a website.  Even my chosen little corner of the world, big American law firms, seems to purring right along.

Driving in real traffic on a real superhighway, though, the metaphorical relevance of that old name became even sharper.  You have your monster triple tractor-trailers, over 100 feet long, barreling down on all who dare get in their way.  Behind them is an old beater going 10 miles-an-hour under the speed limit, belching a plume of smoke from burning oil.  Trying to make time by speeding and zig-zagging around all the trucks in the right lane and the Wisconsin drivers in the left lane is a constant parade of sedans, cross-over SUVs and even a few minivans festooned with window stickers and school magnets.  These vehicles all have different destinations, but they’re all sharing the highway in relative peace and harmony, moving along at a pretty good clip even through the occasional construction zone narrowing traffic down to a single lane in each direction.  Every once in a while, there’s a stalled car on the shoulder nursing a tow-truck, and every couple of hundred miles, there’s a trooper who has pulled someone over, and he’s writing a ticket.

Can you picture this on the Web in terms of digital marketing, too?  I definitely can.  And did, during my drive.

But tonight, upon returning home and perusing Twitter, I was reminded that some companies are still struggling on the Information Superhighway and are perhaps the metaphorical equivalent to horse-drawn carriages (except they’re not Amish).

I came across this:  “Squire Patton Boggs’ Website Fails to Keep Up with Merger.”  Long story short, two big law firms merged as of this past June 1, and they still don’t have a new, combined website.  There’s one little page up at a URL reflecting the new firm’s merged name that directs folks back to “heritage” websites.  Oh, and you can sign up to receive notice as to when the new website is launched.

The basic reason? Combining law firm websites is a slog, and a lengthy one at that.  Plus, this “wedding” ended up happening pretty fast.  John Simpson, CEO of website developer One North, ably explains all of the considerations that go into building one of these monsters and why they can take a while.  And, as a veteran of a merged website (done by One North’s predecessor company) and later a complete rebuild (by a different company), I can heartily confirm that.  But as Ross Fishman, a law firm website guru in his own right, points out:  better to have something than nothing.  It’s been more than three months since the merger became official, after all.

Still, I was going to cut the firm some slack, even though I’m sure they could have come up with a much more creative solution than the one they chose.  Then I read this statement from the firm’s spokesperson:  “Our goal is to properly launch a website that reflects the strengths and capabilities of our recently combined firm.  The quick completion of our merger gave us a compressed timeline in which to do this, and a new website will be launched in due course.

Uh, OK.  Guess the firm’s digital marketing isn’t stalled on the ole Information Superhighway.  It’s up on cement blocks in the front yard.

What do you think?  How important is a new website to a newly merged law firm?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.


One thought on “Remember When They Called It the “Information Superhighway”?

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