Will Our Web Sites Become Obsolete? (Hold Me)

If you’re like us at the Chamber, you took rebuilding your web site very seriously. We assembled a team of enthusiastic, in-the-know folks from various departments, each of whom offered what they wanted to see on our new (as of 2008) web site.

Now, however, social media consultant Jay Baer contends on his Convince & Convert blog that thanks to Facebook, our web sites may not even be relevant much longer. He asserts:

Like print newspapers, basketball players under 6 feet tall, and the McRib sandwich, the website as we know it will soon be a thing of the past – a quaint reminder of the original Internet era.

Who killed the website? Facebook, of course.

Ironically, Facebook itself started as humble website. But, for all its foibles and fairytales, its growth and groan-inducing missteps, Facebook and its leadership have known for a long time that websites are yesterday’s technology – they are just now getting around to twisting the knife.

Do You “Like” Me in Attack Mode?
Facebook is waging a three-pronged war on websites. The first front is the battle of expectations. Here, the objective is to change the way we think about information exchange online. Historically, we read “Web pages”. Now, the move is toward “social objects” which are invariably smaller, more directed pieces of content. Like a fussy deconstructed salad at a downtown restaurant with ridiculous unisex bathrooms, Facebook wants us to publish in tiny bursts of words, pictures, videos, and single purpose apps, rather than the page-length containers and complicated databases of yore.

Incidentally, this is why Google is so afraid of Facebook. Google has made a couple of dollars by reading and ranking Web pages. If the standard unit of publication becomes something other than the page, but rather smaller social objects like status updates and photos being published and ranked in real-time, Google’s role in that equation is diminished.

Facebook took a major (yet curiously underreported) move in this direction last week, when they enabled companies to publish to Facebook members’ news feeds for anyone that has “liked” a Web page…

If You Can’t Beat Em, Should You Join Em?
I have said on this very blog that I was dubious about putting too many eggs in Facebook’s basket, because you’re essentially building your marketing program on rented land. And I still feel that way. The amount of control Facebook has (or will have) over the data and interactions on the global Web is truly unprecedented (and I trust them even less than Google). But, if your old house is abandoned and full of mice and cobwebs, a shiny new house – even on rented land – may start looking pretty inviting.

RIP websites. It was great while it lasted.

This is all very intriguing and a bit alarming. If this were to happen, I wonder what the time frame would be. Time will tell, I suppose. But please "Like" us on Facebook just in case.

C’mon Congress: UI Fix Won’t Happen by Itself

There is a reason the Indiana Chamber advocated in the 2010 legislative session for a two-year delay in the state’s unemployment insurance tax increase. That’s because two major things needs to happen — and both will take time. One is a comprehensive look at the state system; that means reviewing eligibility and benefit levels in addition to simply raising the tab for employers. Second is that Congress needs to craft a national solution to the billions that are being borrowed by numerous states, ones that do not have the capability to pay back the loans or the interest.

Indiana lawmakers did grant a one-year delay, saving employee jobs as employers could ill afford the $400 million tax increase. Little progress, however, has been made on the two elements to the long-term solution. Thus, another delay will certainly be on the agenda come January.

Stateline.org, in a story yesterday, details the dollars involved nationally and the need for Congress to act.

More than 30 states have borrowed nearly $40 billion. Some of the current totals:

  • California, $7.5 billion
  • Michigan, $3.8 billion
  • New York, $3.2 billion
  • Pennsylvania, $3.0 billion
  • North Carolina, $2.4 billion
  • Ohio, $2.3 billion
  • Illinois, $2.2 billion
  • Others topping $1 billion are Indiana ($1.7), New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin

According to the story:

It adds up to more borrowing for the programs than ever before, and it’s likely to balloon by year’s end. If interest rates projected at around 4 to 5 percent were added to that total amount, it would force states to pay an additional $1.6 to $2 billion currently unaccounted for. And that’s not the only additional fee that could be imposed. For every year the loans aren’t paid back, employers will lose at least 0.3 percent from the federal credit. That could mean that an employer’s tax rate of 1.1 percent would inflate to 1.4 percent.

Doug Holmes, the president of UWC Strategies, a business-oriented consulting firm, says 25 of the 31 states borrowing federal dollars will be unable to pay off their loans in time unless Congress acts soon to revise the rules. But this may be an inopportune time for Congress to try to renew the interest-rate moratorium, says Mike Katz, of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). Nothing is likely to be considered before the election, and if Republicans make substantial gains, as is expected, a new stimulus is very unlikely.

Michigan, a state that has a federal unemployment insurance debt close to $4 billion, provides a striking example. During the last recession in 2002, state lawmakers raised weekly benefits by about 20 percent. Policies like this led the state to unemployment insurance insolvency in 2006, three years before the surge of borrowing among other states began. Because of this, Michigan has already felt the federal penalties that most states are now fearing.

The closest that states have ever come to this level of borrowing happened in 1983, when the recessions of the mid-1970s and early 1980s added up to a collective unemployment insurance debt of $28 billion (the number is adjusted to 2007 dollars). During the first few years of the 1980s, Congress passed a series of reforms that aided the ability of states to pay off the loans. 

By 1990, all the outstanding debt was paid off, but much of that was aided by a prosperous economic rebound throughout the mid- to late ’80s. “If we’re going to recover from this period, we need to get lucky,” says NASWA Executive Director Rich Hobbie. “That is a steep hill to climb.”