Those seeking to use the Web as an effective brand storytelling medium need to recognize that there may come a time when it’s best to close the book and move on to another tale. Case in point: the Web site of Business 2.0, a financially successful technology magazine founded in 1998 by TED Founder Chris Anderson, James Daly, and Mark Gross to cover the rise of what was then called “The New Economy.”
Business 2.0 was sold to Time Inc. in 2001 and over the next few years, expanded its Web presence under the supervision of longtime Time Inc. technology editor Josh Quittner. Unfortunately, Business 2.0 never met the expectations set for it by Time Inc. senior managers, and the entire project was terminated by 2008.
Inexplicably, however, today the Business 2.0 Web site, located at the domain business2.com, continues to faithfully serve up content that is almost five years out of date. Although anyone actually clicking on any article on the site will not be fooled into believing there is anything new there, casual viewers may not be so lucky and may actually rely on the purported “news” for decision-making purposes.
Additionally, some viewers may conclude that the content on the sites of these sister brands is similarly out of date and irrelevant. For example, note that the “Top News From CNNMoney.com” area of the Business 2.0 site links to articles from CNNMoney.com that date from 2008. The resultant damage to the equity of any brands associated with sites that have become “unstuck in time” can be severe.
Finally, those viewers who are diligent enough to discover that Business 2.0 lags badly behind the times may automatically assume that the contextual advertising running alongside the old content is similarly outdated (it was not in this case).
The lesson of the Business 2.0 chrono-debacle is clear: when the time for telling your stories on the Web is over, and your audience has gone home, either remove these stories or visibly mark them with words to the effect that they no longer constitute news. This is the only fair way to address the plight of users who naturally expect that “news” content should bear a clear temporal connection to the world at large.