Despite being an author of published novels, a friend of mine is having trouble finding a publisher for his latest tome. Discussions have been so protracted that he’s already well on the way to completing another novel before getting this one published. Times have changed in publishing. The landscape is not what it was, even compared with five years ago. There are fewer publishers and their budgets are more restricted than they used to be. Risk-aversion appears endemic in the conventional publishing world and everyone is beholden to the corporation that casts a long shadow over it: Amazon. The retail behemoth now appears to run the industry and woe-betide anyone, even big publishers, who dare to invoke its wrath.
My scribe friend has a website. I’m not doing him a disservice when I say that probably no one visits it. He doesn’t engage in social media; he required an explanation of Twitter that needed way more than 140 characters. He doesn’t want to self-publish due to the traditional stigma attached to vanity publishing, i.e. the book isn’t good enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher. Like most people in literary circles he has a love-hate relationship with Amazon yet didn’t know until recently that I, along with many others, had been able to purchase his work to read on a Kindle.
It’s no real coincidence that I’ve also started consulting with a couple of artists who are at a loss to find outlets for their work. They were used to putting their output into a gallery, the traditional press would preview it, people would visit and then buy the available works. The internet appears to have pulled the rug from under that business model. As with the author, they have a website with a very low number of visitors. My suggestion that they may not actually need a website was greeted with utter incomprehension. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are foreign words. They are starting to appreciate that in internet marketing terms they will have to run just to keep still.
Yet another friend produces craft pieces. Again her website is of no help, garnering a handful of sales over the same number of years. Even sites like Etsy are now old hat given that it appears to have become an eBay variant allowing mass produced items to be sold rather than the hand-crafted products that built its reputation.
Where I live is awash with web developers. It seems every other person will build you a website but with no guarantees that anyone will visit or that there might be anything other than a negative impact on the bottom line.
So is a web site really necessary anymore? That depends not only upon the type of product but, more pertinently, upon the amount of resources that can be thrown into promoting and supporting the website. Those resources include social media, marketing and sales staff. If you can’t afford those, you’ll have a ringside view of the death of the website.