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The Lessons of WebTV

In the late 1990s, I was the editor of a magazine for owners of WebTV, the Internet TV service from Microsoft. The experience was the equivalent of teaching an English class in the jungles of Belize. The WebTV audience, which largely consisted of senior citizens and/or first-time Internet users, often complained that they couldn't reach sites mentioned in the magazine. When I asked why, I discovered that some were sending the web address in an e-mail, expecting the site to return in their in-box; others believed that the site would magically appear on their TV screen if they just hit the right button on the remote. And, as God is my witness, when I told one person to use her browser, she thought I meant her shirt.

The lack of Internet savvy among users was surpassed only by Microsoft's lack of marketing savvy. In print and TV advertising campaigns, the software giant billed WebTV as an inexpensive alternative for the young professional who wanted to surf at home. (The basic set-top was priced at under $100.) Of course, the real target audience was the senior citizen who actually had little interest in getting on the web. The senior just wanted an easy way to exchange e-mails with the kids without suffering the cost and confusion of a personal computer.

News source: TVPredictions.com

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