The venerable Yahoo Directory will be retired at the end of 2014, bearing witness to a golden age that has come and gone. What do marketers do in a quickening of the new media age?
In the mid 1990s, when the Internet was first commercialized, a few of us became the early pioneers in designing and hosting web sites, and setting up servers for web and email, having come from a background of BBS (bulletin board systems). It was a small digital world then, where the emergence of websites was glacial, and curated content slowly became the norm, with the birth of Yahoo, a directory service listing websites under different categories, along with other directories such as DMOZ and Lycos. I remembered fondly how we as webmasters had to religiously try to submit our information to such directories, to earn a small spot in them so that visitors can find us. It was SEO 1.0. Fond memories I must say.
Just recently, Yahoo, in its goal to streamline and rejuvenate its business amidst fierce competition from Google, announced that it will retire its longtime Yahoo Directory at the end of 2014, having seen the birth and transformation of the Web for a long time.
The directory as a concept, whether it be online, or in print, has accompanied many marketers for a long time. When I was a marketing manager for a multimedia and PC company in the mid 1990s, advertising in phone directories and specialist directory books were the norm, earning us mindshare for potential buyers who would flip through such directories to look for suppliers. It was how business was done.
When search engines became the norm, the notion of a curated or advertising-centric directory providing such information became less attractive. Search engines have progressed so powerfully that it is no longer even necessary to manually submit your information. If your web property is useful, the modern search engine like Google will find it.
And today, ask anyone around us, especially the millennial generation, and they may give you a bewildered look if you ask them to search on a curated directory. Their primary search tool may just be Google, or perhaps Bing or Wikipedia. It may even be YouTube if their lives revolve around motion entertainment.
I still receive thick tombs of directories delivered to us at the office, since these are too big and too thick to fit through mailboxes. Invariably and sadly, they end up in the bin on the same day. For a small office, these occupy too much space and nobody in the team uses them anyway. Although some directory publishers send CD-ROMs as well, it is also unfortunate that these too end up in the bin, as many computers today do not even have CD or DVD drives built in. Blame it on the cloud computing paradigm, where there is hardly a need today to transfer information on physical media, or to print them. The color printers in the office are often used only to print reports for those who still insist on them. Save the trees I say.
So, when most of us in marketing are progressively pushed by the marketplace and the consumers to tap on the social media world and the cloud platforms, the old paradigms of directories (printed or online), the old methods of transferring information (on CD discs, on USB drives, or on print), are slowly and surely going away. It is inevitable, and the faster we embrace this change, the better.
The world belongs to those who can joyously embrace change as it comes, however disparate or painful these changes may initially be.