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Sunsetting a Web Project

No one ever wants to think about the end of a project before it begins, but many web projects do and should end.  It is a good practice to put some thought into how that will be handled before you launch, but little consensus on what the best practice for are for “the end”.  Take a gander at the following treatments and let me know which you think is best in class:

Sub ChickenOption 1: Time warpSubservient Chicken – This Burger King’s site originally launched as a way to promote their new chicken sandwich.  It has not changed noticeably since the day it launched (copyright 2004).  There is no dated material, just a quick, fun customer experience that could be considered “evergreen”.  This is the Helen of Troy of viral marketing – the project that caused 1000 others to get greenlighted.  Because of it’s significance, it is nice to be able to refer newcomers to online WOM to this site.  

 

Clark and MichaelOption 2: Keep it live, but let it ageClark and michael – This 10 episode series featuring man of the moment Michael Cera and friend Clark Duke ran from spring into summer of ’07, but received a surge of viewership months later when it made Time’s list of Top 10 Best Web Videos in December.  While the episodes can still be viewed, Clark and Michael’s personal diary ended in July.  For folks like me who only discovered the site in the last month, it feels like a broken window. (hat tip: Catchup Blog)

Option 3: Let the audience hijack your siteIn the Motherhood – ITM was a Suave and Sprint “co-conception” that I discussed here was done around Mother’s Day 2007.  While it doesn’t look like the brands involved have not done much updating since the end of the script contest, the users have hijacked that community and kept the forums alive.   Option 4: Leave no footprints – Too many promotions to mention – Another option is to simply take your site down after its useful period is over.  The downside is that you may break a lot of links to your brand all over the web. 

ZeOption 5: Set boundaries, honor what you accomplished - The Show with Ze Frank – ZeFrank grew a huge following of “Sportsracers” with his lightning-fast daily video podcast “show”.  From the beginning, Ze set expectations that it was a 1 year gig and would end 1 year from its start date and so it did.  Now, Ze has pulled together highlights of the show for those discovering it late, but refers to it in the appropriate (past) tense.

 

The one thing that I think can be taken away from these treatments is that how you sunset a web project makes a big difference in your future digital footprint.  You can always change plans based on audience reaction, but it is important to plan not just for the next 6 months, but the artifacts that will exist in 18 or 24 months as well.

  1. January 16th, 2008 at 06:40 | #1

    Great post – I think of your five, I think Option 5 is particularly important. Setting the boundaries so people know what to expect and are not disappointed is key. There is an archival value to keeping these campaigns up so people can still see them – at the very least so they don’t have to resort to Wayback Machine to see them again. I posted some related thoughts in a post some time ago about the idea of short term blogging. Whether it’s a short term campaign or a short term blog, knowing the right “sunsetting” strategy is key.

  2. January 16th, 2008 at 19:14 | #2

    Good post, Virginia. You have to give it to the Subservient Chicken — a great, simple strategy that should live forever for new kids to discover your decades to come (inspiring many BK visits) with zero upkeep. Not a bad deal. I liked Ze’s show, and I’m glad he stuck to his word and killed it when he said he would, but I think he missed an opportunity to keep his momentum. Now, the upkeep there is a whole different story — that’s a lot of work without much direct payoff, so it wasn’t really sustainable. I’d agree that a sunsetting strategy is important, but if you don’t have one at least make sure that keeping the sun up isn’t hard to do.

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