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Coca-Cola Just Took a Step Into The Future of The Web

GeekWire had a good post this week about the ‘death of the corporate website’ to make way for a new kind, courtesy of Coca-Cola.

I realized I hadn’t looked at corporate websites in a good five years, so I started from the top — the Fortune 500 list. By the fifth company on the list, I was too appalled to continue.

No. 5 on the Fortune 500 is Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s mega-conglomerate. Their corporate website reminds me of the first website I ever built in 1997 using Notepad.exe. All that’s missing from it is an ‘under construction’ animated GIF.

If you continue on the Fortune 500 list, it’s almost as if they all use the same template from 1999, each of them more uninspiring than the last. It’s as if the corporate website’s only purpose is to house all the token ‘corporate responsibility’ press releases that one would expect from a corporation. Anything beyond that is unnecessary.

Well, Coca-Cola certainly disagrees with that strategy. They transformed their corporate website into essentially an ever-evolving story (i.e. stream of content) told through any and all media available to them. The brand as a publisher, a concept I’ve always loved and helped organizations embrace.

But are corporate websites important?

So how important are corporate websites? If most corporations haven’t cared for more than a decade, why care now? Billion dollar companies have remained billion dollar companies by sticking with their bland corporate websites.

To actually pull off Coca-Cola’s strategy requires a lot of investment in people, equipment, and production costs. Where’s the ROI then in a corporate website with a purpose beyond housing press releases?

To answer that, we have to take a brief journey into the future of the web.

The future is stream-based

The web won’t be websites, and there certainly won’t be corporate websites. We will have streams, and the web will finally be personalized and filtered the way it should be: to us. I will control my stream and all of the content that I consume every day. No more push, all pull.

My stream will consist of many other streams; my friends & family’s streams, my favorite writer’s streams, tech news streams, NPR’s stream, etc.

But most importantly, the brands we love will hopefully be a part of our streams, and the only way they will is if they embrace what Coca-Cola has started — the idea of brands as publishers.

If brands have no content, they have no stream. The future of the web is one where brands will be forced to produce content in order to have any visibility on the web. In a world where you have no voice until someone opts in to hear it, you have to start creating.

The social web was the beginning of this shift for brands, as many started Facebook pages and over time have realized they need to start creating content worthy of a newsfeed.

But when the web becomes truly opt-in (via streams), this will be a radical shift for brands to embrace, and one that Coca-Cola has set the precedent for. It’s going to require big changes in marketing budgets and strategy, but it is inevitable.

So it’s time to start asking yourself: how is your organization adapting for the future of the web?

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