What would monkey C do?

Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks? His reply was “Because that’s where the money is”.

When I look at some web initiatives I find myself asking is this a Willie Sutton initiative? That is, are we targetting a mass market? A space where visitors will naturally congregate. Or are we blazing a new trail?

It seems obvious that expectations about visitor numbers, levels of engagement, impact of an initiative need to reflect where in the webcology we are positioning ourselves so why then do I still have discussions with people who expect Facebook levels of traffic for an initiative which is either of specific importance but limited wider attraction or so far off the beaten track as to be invisible?

In the former case, you may well get very intense and active participants as it can be something which the target audience feel passionate about but if the business case said you would get 1000000 hits a day then you are stuffed if you only get 100 people a day visiting the site, even if they are committed users who find it really important and are very vocal supporters of the engagement.

So the key conversation to have is right at the very start. Because while it may be tricky at times to transition a niche site into the mainstream, it is much easier than promising to rule the mainstream and only achieving niche.


3 thoughts on “What would monkey C do?

  1. Yes but… is that not a bit 1984? Surely the Willie Sutton initiative online would be to go where the community is, not just create a mountain and wait for Mohammed to come. (Can I get any more metaphors in to this comment?)

    There are gazilions (official researched figure) of people on the Internet, discussing everything you could possible imagine, and creating virtual communities around these subjects.

    In order to garner the numbers you are after, and get a wider reach, you would do your research first, find the communities, engage and get some traction BEFORE you built your website.

    The passionate engagement you refer to would be very small scale if you created the discussion in your own kingdom and waited for people to stumble upon it. It would be far greater if it started within the interested communities, then dropped a trail of breadcrumbs, sweets and cakes back to your own place – where you can engage and examine to your hearts content.

    That said: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

  2. The business case is the problem. Customer expectations are the problem. (That’s *always* the problem with customers, in any sphere, isn’t it?)

    No matter which web space you’re in, it’s best not to be playing a numbers game.

    Or back to your metaphor, there are no banks worth robbing… unless you’re a collector of rare coins.

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