"There is a type of virus that infects our bodies. There is a type of virus that infects our computers. There is a type of virus that infects our time."
Now, what on earth is a "time virus"?
McGovern explains it this way: Suppose you receive an email warning you about a dangerous new computer virus. The warning is a hoax, but you don't know it. So you spend the next hour forwarding the email to everyone in your address book, alerting your colleagues at the office, and finding out how to update your antivirus software.
So in the end, it's not your computer that's infected, but your time. Moreover, you've become a "host", passing the germ onto others.
Of course, we're not only talking about hoaxes and scams of various types. All kinds of misinformation, or even accurate but useless information, whittle away at our time and our productivity, sometimes with disastrous results.
On the Internet, information is the very air we breathe.
Some of it is fresh and clean. Medical science discovered long ago that many bacteria are not only harmless, but healthy. But a lot of the cyberspace air is infected and polluted.
More than 20 years ago, having just been awarded a diploma in librarianship, I was offered a position in one of the libraries of an international firm of information brokers. In effect, the company sold information to corporations, professionals and even government agencies that needed to find out things in a hurry.
I was happy enough to accept such an exciting and challenging position, yet a bit of a guilty conscience kept nagging away at me for some time afterward.
After all, had I not been taught at library school that information should be free, that unrestricted access to it was every citizen's right? And here I was, a traitor to my own calling, working on a job that flew right in the face of that very credo!
Today, the wheel has turned full circle.
If my former company's business model has survived at all, it has undergone a major transformation. Sure, certain info still comes with a price ticket and there are still consumers who're prepared to pay for it. But by and large, all you need is access to the Net and the desire to learn a few basic skills, and free, fast and extensive information is at your fingertips, isn't it?
Well, yes, in theory it is. However, thanks in no small measure to an increasingly polluted digital atmosphere and to ever more potent strains of the time virus the gap between theory and practice is growing wider and wider.
In short, the wheel is starting to turn in the other direction again.
Bad news? Yes. But in opinion, this is where we, as email publishers, web site developers, and above all, as astute entrepreneurs, come into the picture. Golden opportunities lie before our eyes. Ripe fruits are there for the plucking.
It's not that demand has abated. Quite the contrary.
Take a recent study by the Pew Research Center, which examined what the average surfer does online. Nearly 75 percent of the people in the study went online to search for specific information. Sixty-four percent visited travel sites, more than half did educational research, 54% were hungry for facts about health and medicine, and so on.
Moreover, how delighted will these information seekers be to find the data they want, all neatly wrapped, delivered to them in their email inboxes?
Of course, a plethora of publishers are performing such services already, but an overcrowded marketplace tends to add to the chaos and the spread of the time virus, rather than relieving it. As one writer put it recently - you'll probably easily name the top three Net portals in your favorite field of interest, but you'll be hard pressed to remember the name of the fourth!
The secret is to find yourself a narrow niche, and go for it. And if you want to profit from advertising, you're more likely to succeed.
New research has shown that highly targeted newsletters can achieve up to a 30 percent click-through rate. For more generic publications, the average is around the 3 to 7 percent mark.
The more polluted our information environments, the more we become bogged down by overload, spam, irrelevant and useless data - the greater will be the demand for good information brokers.
Without any doubt, email publishers are the information brokers of the future.
Azriel Winnett is senior staff writer at Sling Shot Media LLC, which offers a wide range of hosting solutions for email lists of all types and sizes, as well as many other services for email marketers and list owners. Visit our site: http://www.listhost.net or email us at [email protected]