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The Evolution Of The Webmaster

The evolution of the digital platform, as another channel of communication, has been rapid and extremely influential on our culture. Television, before it, had a similar impact, but with limits in that it was one-way broadcasted communication.

The digital platform offers two-way, delayed and real time, communication through email, websites and sub platforms like Skype and other messaging technologies. It was only a matter of time before audience levels would reach those of broadcasting. In 2016, advertising expenditure on the digital platform equalled that of television broadcasting in the USA. By 2017 it passed it (https://www.recode.net/2017/12/4/16733460/2017-digital-ad-spend-advertising-beat-tv).

However it doesn’t stop there. The digital platform is more than an alternative channel of mass communication, it is also a platform for trade and commerce. Virtual shops with real trading are popping up everywhere. Mobile devices can interface and enjoy all this platform has to offer, freeing us of the constraints of the home and office.

Being two-way invites feedback and participation. Everybody can create content adding to the pool of knowledge—be it correct or not. Social media channels have exploded with popularity. What’s more it supports multiple types of media. Communication can be in traditional text, added visuals, motion visuals and audiovisual media. Links and other functions can be added to web visual media elements—often used as illustrated buttons invoking further user interface (UI) functionality.

More and more administrative, marketing and sales work is being done from employee home offices in conjunction with VOIP technology. There is no doubt of the impact on our culture.

In all this technical evolution a new demand for specialist skills has been created. While traditional vocational disciplines are utilised, there is demand for them to widen their scope.

Marketing:

The value of the digital platform in marketing is already realised as I write this. With a huge global audience, it is a prime target for advertising and promotion. Being interactive, it allows for data collection through forms that can be filled out online. People with an interest in anything can now subscribe to be kept in the loop, or receive offers not available in any other way. This has proven a boon for building up email lists for more focused, personal communication.

Marketing involves advertising and promotion. This comes with costs. It is important to know the strengths and weaknesses of a marketing campaign through results. The web platform provides tools for monitoring traffic on a website. The metrics can be used in key performance indication (KPI). This is one of the new skills marketing people must add to their vocational scope.

It does not stop there though. It is very helpful for marketing people to be able to add new content onto their websites. An understanding of the HTML, CSS and JavaScript building blocks of web pages will be invaluable in these tasks. Without this knowledge I.C.T. web development specialists need to be called in from time-to-time. There is enough specialisation to create a marketing subsection vocation—digital marketing.

Digital marketing is a new vocation created with the evolution of the digital platform. In addition to the above, it also includes email marketing campaigns. In some cultures those that look after websites, their content and KPIs are called “Webmasters”. They may be part of the marketing, digital marketing, or online product sales and administration teams. 

Online Media: 

With online trade and commerce, marketing merges with sales. A webmaster updates catalogues and pricing content on websites and looks after sales transaction data, passing orders through to sales. 

With education and training course online delivery, the Webmaster maintains course content on websites. The course material may come from subject matter experts, but the rendering of it to media as a final product is done by media product creatives and that may be one of the occupations a webmaster may have to participate in. 

As with general marketing, writers, graphic designers and artists are used. The rollout of the digital platform has increased demand for product from the creative industries, like copywriters, graphic designers and artists, photographers, animators, videographers and video asset producers. In fact some of these skills are crossing borders… Graphic artists would do well learning animation—at least motion graphics. 

Animators might consider the reverse. Photographers would do well also learning video production and graphic art if they are to survive into the future. All these media products are considered as content in the digital sphere. Changes are afoot merging these individual craft skills into one vocation—content creation, by multimedia authors or artists. Add to that some web I.T skills and you have your webmaster. 

I.T./I.C.T. 

This is a huge technical support industry. The digital platform is just one area in this industry. I.T. professionals design, build, service, troubleshoot and repair information technology systems. The specialist occupations range from electronics engineering to program development and coding. Electronic computerised networking requires constant maintenance, while the world just keeps demanding labour saving solutions. New applications for the world’s information technologies are providing labour saving solutions… the I.T. industry is in demand. 

Website development is one area of the I.T. industry that has a common border with a creative industry discipline—web design. Today industry is associating graphic design with web design. It seems we expect web designers to be specialists within web development teams (I.T. industry), or an extension skill of graphic design (Creative industry). This suggests a web designer must be able to build front-end user interfaces as well as design them, having the skills of a graphic artist.

A web designer is therefore a specialist in the creation of web user interfaces. A webmaster on the other hand maintains websites, their content, and monitors KPIs. Webmasters are often part of the business and marketing industries, web developers the I.T. industry and web designers a crossover between both as well as the creative industry.

The new digital platform has a vocational following: 

  1. Platform and site creators, developers and maintainers

  2. Application and content creation professionals

Platform and site creators, developers and maintainers are mainly I.T. professionals, with a little help from digital and graphic designers who could be considered more as part of the creative industries than I.T..

Application and content creation professionals are a mix of industry segments and vocations. Application can be social, private, community, corporate, government or military. The biggest application of the digital platform seems to be split between social media, community, education, government and business.

Business applies it to public relations, marketing and sales functions and has infringed into social media applications.

Another common industry called upon by those that see a valuable application for the digital platform is the creative media production industry. Graphic designers, artists, draft people, writers, photographers, animators and video media producers.

Web designers and developers are concerned mainly with development of sites and maintenance of the platform technology rather than with site application administration.

The creation of digital media is the product of a section of the wider creative industry. It is in this industry that crafts are merging, creating multimedia authors. It is the increased demand from the successful application of digital technologies that has driven this change. There is not enough demand for a single media artist from a single organisation to sustain full-time engagement, but there becomes enough demand from a single organisation for a creative who can produce multiple media content and even more so if they can provide other skills, like web administration or KPI analysis. With this combination of creative, administrative, marketing and technical skills a webmaster is created.

“Webmaster” is not such a common term in Australia, for some reason Australian business organisations prefer to use a sentence to describe such a position… a graphic designer who is familiar with a CMS and has basic knowledge in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, KPI analysis and SEO or SEM. Just how far into digital marketing their knowledge is supposed to go is subjective. If the website application is not marketing, then most likely not so far. For that matter, just how skilled are they expected to be in media creation is also subjective. Specialists still exist to meet these extremes, but that may involve outsourcing and added expense to the business owner. The bottom line is how deep, professionally, does the site need to go to be successful in its application… thinking of return on investment.

It can only be hoped that the term “Webmaster” might be adopted more here in Australia, saving long winded sentences describing a title by its vocational description.  

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