I posted several days ago that I thought that ‘Webmaster’ is an outdated job title. I didn’t explain why then but I’ll take a stab at it now.
Webmaster came about in the early days as an administrative contact for a web site. It would be the person who answers email@example.com and made sure the server was running, updated pages, added new ones, etc. One person did it all because the domain of knowledge to create all you needed on a site was not too huge back then. The potential return on investment for a good site was also much lower back then for most organizations.
As the Web matured, the roles needed for a successful site exploded: graphic design, markup, programming, content authoring and editing, information architecture, marketing and others. Each of those roles became more complex as more tools and techniques became available and users became more sophisticated in their use of the Web. The potential return for an excellent site exploded, justifying investment in more people with specialized skills and knowledge.
Except for the smallest of operations and the most exceptional of people, It is almost impossible to find someone who can do all these things competently at the same time. But organizations still try to create “do it all” jobs on the cheap. Here’s a tip: people who are competent in all those disciplines are highly valuable in today’s market and they are savvy to impossible jobs. You aren’t going to get them.
Running a web site today is a team effort, even if you have just a single person in house managing your site. They most likely work with outside talent and resources to design your site, keep it up and running, add features and other tasks. Given that, the title for a one person shop position should probably be something along the lines of Manager, Director or Producer.
Keep in mind the two purposes of a job title: attract qualified candidates when you are hiring and communicate internally to your organization what the person does. If you post a job with the title ‘Webmaster’ these days you are simply asking for amateurs to apply and seasoned professionals to ignore you.
A few months ago I remarked during an ASAE virtual seminar that I thought webmasters were going the way of the dinosaur. I wish I had had time to make an erudite explanation like yours on why I felt that way.
David, you may want to put a link to your post here:
Dennis Hwang, who does the cool doodles for Google, lists his title as webmaster. If Google doesn’t get it, will associations?
BTW, nice quote in the NYT today.
That’s really the exception that proves the rule. The attractor to Google for job candidates is to work at Google. For other companies (such as all the rest of them!) that title will most likely be counter productive.
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What would be a more appropriate title for a person that fulfills the responsibilites of a Webmaster?
Robert, it really depends upon the specifics of their role. Above I mention a few examples, such as Director, Manager or Producer. The title needs to attract the right candidates and make sense internally given the role they will fulfill.