Sandor Panton, Contributor
THIS YEAR, undoubtedly promises to be an interesting year for Internet access and usage in Jamaica. In my mind, we are on the cusp of an Internet revolution, something that many 'First World' countries have long experienced and moved on, but we're getting there, slowly but surely we are.
Are our local individuals, companies and entities appropriately poised to ride the wave of this 'Internet revolution'? I think not. As we look globally, we see many examples of the corporate world utilising the reach and effectiveness of the Internet as an advertising tool. According to the international marketing and research company JupiterResearch, Europe's online advertising market in 2004 amounted to a massive 2.1 billion Euros. The American Advertising Federation recently reported that online advertising represented 8.35 per cent of a company's average media plan spending in 2004, and projects that this will increase to 17 per cent by 2007. While a comparison between Jamaica and global powers is hardly fair, you would be hard-pressed to find an extensive list of local companies that devote even a fraction of a percentage of their overall marketing budget to Internet advertising.
Why aren't more local companies advertising online? There are a number of possible reasons:
Ignorance and a simple lack of understanding. Too many individuals in corporate marketing positions just don't seem to 'get it' with regard to this 'Internet thing'. Some may not even know how to type a document on a computer, so it may be a bit unfair to expect that they would be willing to even consider the Internet as a viable option when formulating their marketing plans.
The 'Internet audience' is simply not their audience. Some will say for example, that the marketing focus of a particular product/service is for the average person on the street, not the highly educated or affluent (assuming the latter are more likely to use the Internet). For now it may be safe to segment markets in this way, but for how long? With the downward trend of computer software and hardware costs, combined with declining Internet access costs and an increased proliferation of other Internet-ready devices (e.g. cell phones and PDAs), the 'small man on the street' is already 'logging on' to check their email, surf the Web etc., so a cyber-ad of some sort will be as valuable as other typical and more traditional media such as a radio jingle or newspaper ad.
It is a costly ad medium. As with any other medium, ad rates will vary. The onus is on the marketer to do their research, identify which website is most likely to be visited by their target audience, then assign a potential value. Already there are many examples of local website brands with extensive local and international traffic (visitors).
Jamaica-Gleaner.com undoubtedly one of the most popular online destinations for Jamaicans living overseas.
WheelsJamaica.com local companies in the auto industry should be reaching out to the hundreds of car enthusiasts that visit this site regularly.
TechJamaica.Com numerous Jamaican 'Techies' (and some non-techies who may be seeking solutions to their tech problems) visit this website daily.
Whaddat.Com already many party promoters have recognised that this website is heavily trafficked by the younger, more web savvy generation of Jamaicans.
A lot seems to be changing however, and although Internet access has been publicly available in Jamaica since the early/mid90s, 2005 may very well mark the birth of widespread Internet acceptance and usage across the country. A number of recent developments are a testament to this the Government's recent grant of two licences for the construction and operation of submarine fibre optic cable networks linking Jamaica to North America and the rest of the world should eventually mean greater accessibility to faster Internet access speeds at lower than present costs. Already (possibly with the prospect of competition looming), CWJamaica recently announced significant cuts in their broadband Internet access costs. The recently announced success of Cliff Hughes' Nationwide News Network in attracting big investments from local corporations, may also be a sign of the changing times for non-traditional media.
Sandor Panton is an Internet Marketing Specialist & owner of Top5Jamaica.Com. If you have any comments, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This series is brought to you by www.go-jamaica.com, the portal web site of The Gleaner.