Digital marketing veteran Mitch Joel asked recently, “What is the point of a website in 2014?” While he makes some excellent points about what a website has been and what it could be, there’s one critical point that is missing from his analysis.

In 2014, as has been the case since the first websites 20+ years ago, a key point of your website is that you own it. It’s one of the 2 cornerstones of every owned media platform. You own your website. You own your email list. Those are the digital assets that are really and truly yours. Yes, you have advertising, but unless you’re an ad network, you don’t own the advertising platform. You have social media accounts, but unless you’re a social network, you don’t own the social media platform.

No one can change the terms of service of your website, just as no one (except you) can instantly destroy your email list. On the other hand, your Facebook Page could stop working, as happened to my personal Facebook Page’s organic reach over the last 6 months:


Your LinkedIn account can be suspended. Your Twitter account can be suspended. You don’t own your presence on these platforms, despite the fact that we call them owned media. More important, these social platforms are becoming pay to play – and if your resources are tight, then the amount of time and energy you’ve invested in social media could begin to deliver negative ROI.


The analogy I used with many of the digital marketing platforms today is that they’re billboards. While powerful and useful when driving down the highway, when was the last time you ate a meal at a billboard? Chances are, the answer is never. The billboard told you when the restaurant of choice was coming up and directed you to get to it, but you don’t eat there.

Any digital marketing platform that you don’t outright own – social media, a blog not hosted on your website, AdWords ads – is a billboard, and your website is the restaurant. Abandoning or neglecting your website would be like having the greatest billboards on the highway and no restaurant for diners to patronize.

That’s the point of a website in 2014 – and likely will be the point of a website for as long as we have them.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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