Positioning and marketing whiz Al Ries talks to marketing people all over the world, and he says he doesn't find anybody who is confident about putting their money into the Internet. "Everybody is doing it, but they don't feel confident it's going to produce results."

Al contends that the Internet will turn out to be effective only when it goes very narrow on one specific topic. He thinks general advertising will end up being a poor buy on the Internet because viewers won't sit still for a message that tries to change their minds.

"In traditional media you might sit and watch a commercial that tries to change your mind," Al says, "but on the Internet you say, 'Move on, it's getting in my way, I'm looking for something else.' The Internet is an active medium in the sense that the viewer is controlling the material he or she is looking for. You never actively search when you're watching TV."

Al uses the Internet extensively every day, yet he has never clicked on a display ad unrelated to the subject he was searching for. So to him the real question is whether the Internet can ever run a successful ad program that tries to capture a wide number of people.

In Al's opinion, people forget the traditional use of media. Print is good for rational messages, whereas emotional and demonstration themes are better on TV. "Each medium has its good qualities and bad qualities, and the Internet is only good for narrowly targeted messages for people who have already indicated an interest in a certain subject."

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