'In Theory...'

Sitting with a client over breakfast recently, I asked, "Why does a user come to your site?" He started his answer with the words "In theory"--and that was the last thing I heard.

When media planners finally get their turn to speak at a client presentation, they have a set amount of time to present their media plan. After presenting the communication goals, objectives and strategy, they have even less time to present the rationale behind each publishing vendor selected to help their cause.

If they started each rationale with "In theory," their clients would stop listening, too. So buyers choose media partners whose immediate value to the consumer is obvious. This makes it easier for buyers to sell their selections to their clients. And yet, many media sellers struggle to provide buyers with a simple answer to this question.

They often mistakenly answer the question of "why a user visits your site" with what users do while on it. The distinction between the two answers is significant enough to make a difference. Some of the confusion stems from the content bells and whistles sites employ to induce more page impressions or time spent on the site (which used to be referred to as making your site "sticky"). These tools are great--but often do not deliver the initial need the site met when a user first arrived.



The pure online players don't struggle with this answer nearly as much as offline properties with Web extensions. For example, why does someone come to Google? To find what they are looking for. Why Yahoo? To read and send e-mail. To make a purchase without leaving their seat. offers advice from Dr. Phil, but the reason why users come to the site is to find anyone other than Dr. Phil.

Offline media properties have a more difficult time answering the question of why users come to the Web site extensions of their offline brands, because the answer is inherently more ambiguous. For example, why does a user go to The answer is not as simple as for a pure dot-com, because it is too closely related to the offline experience.

The more publishers can clearly distinguish between why consumers spend time with their brand offline versus why users visit their Web site, the easier it will become for buyers to include both in their recommendation rationale to their clients.

So why does a consumer visit your site? Feel free to post your answers (and maybe start up a conversation) on the blog site.

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