It's been 10 years since the dot com bust, when investors realized that everything associated with the World Wide Web wasn't going to bring you P. Diddy-style wealth. Since then, people have realized the web is not extraordinary. It's so ordinary, in fact, that no company can afford to ignore it. Right?
All over town, however, you see examples of businesses that shun the conventional wisdom. Some still don't have websites, and many more have yet to venture into the world of Facebook and Twitter.
Is spending a few hundred dollars on a quality website not worth it for some businesses? Perhaps the more intriguing question is, are some businesses actually better off without websites at all?
Take The Silver Dollar Tavern, for instance. The rustic exterior and barren interior of the 78-year-old W. Mifflin St dive is gloomy to some and charming to others, however, the bar's web presence is practically invisible to all. Besides a Facebook page with 15 likes and no information (no address), the bar offers nothing to would-be patrons online.
Or does it? Perhaps the couple dozen reviews of the bar on Yelp and Urban Spoon is all that is necessary to stoke the interest of a dive crawler.
Similarly, Paul's Books seems stubbornly opposed to the innovations of the 1990's. Caryl Askins, the owner since 1975, politely shook off my suggestions that Paul's adopt a website similar to A Room of One's Own, which features blog posts from staff members about their favorite reads. Currently, Paul's web presence is limited to a Facebook page with 6 likes and a profile page on the Dane County Buy Local website.
As a longtime Paul's employee told me, "We like things the way they are."
While being able to browse online might take away some of the intrigue that strolling amidst the shelves provides, I would have to say that there is a constituency of young people who will simply won't bother checking out a store if it doesn't have a website. Not having a website today is the equivalent of not having an entry in the Yellowpages 20 years ago. Local bookstores and dive bars will continue to profit from passerbys, but they are likely losing out to competitors who go out and win customers online.
Everyday there are people in Madison who turn to Google to figure out where they can find a specific book or a nearby drink special. Why would a store want to forgo these customers?
What do you think? What is a business in 2011 missing when it abstains from the internet?