Snapshot: Webtrate


When playwright Will Little found his web browsing habits were affecting his work, he created Webtrate, an Internet-blocking program. TBO found out how he’s been promoting the motivational tool for writers.

What is Webtrate, and how does it work?

Webtrate is Internet-blocking software aimed at anybody, particularly writers, who feel they’re being distracted from their work by replying to emails, browsing the web, or social media. You might be surprised at how much time you can spend on these.

It could be a habit, where if you’re working and you see an email pop up, you’ll answer it straight away, leading down an alleyway of dealing with emails and then maybe losing your train of thought.

We did a survey of 2,500 people in the UK where 68 percent of the respondents said they were being distracted from completing work by checking their emails, browsing the web, and engaging with social media at some point of the day. Of the respondents, 36 percent said these distractions cost them more than an hour a day.

It’s not saying that the Internet is a bad thing—it’s a very efficient tool to have—it’s just we need to learn when is best to access it.

There’s some academic research carried out by psychologists at Harvard that suggests if you’re not concentrating on a particular task and are constantly being distracted, the fact that it will take you longer to do will lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction.

What makes Webtrate different from other Internet-blocking programs?

Webtrate is unlike other programs that might let you get back online if you reboot your computer. We do offer this option, but because computers reboot incredibly quickly, this may not be a sufficient psychological barrier to going back online for some people. Our program has an option to block the Internet completely for an amount of time, so you would have to wait for that time to elapse to get back online. You can also set goals that can help you focus on what you’re doing, so it’s a motivational tool as well.

Is the program protected by IP?

The Webtrate code was created from scratch; so in terms of software, it’s automatically covered by copyright. We also have copyright on the website, and have trademarked the brand in the US as well as the UK.

Would it be easy to copy Webtrate?

It’s a competitive area—there are similar Internet-blocking programs available for a range of functions, including parental software. But it’s not easy to copy. You would have to be a fairly competent programmer with a lot of years of training to create a program like this. It’s not like plagiarism—it’s really on a different level of copyright and copying.

What types of channels do you use to promote the site?

We use social media and Google ads, and we’ll eventually do Facebook ads. We also tweet, and will be doing something on Reddit. We will get round to doing viral campaigns as well.

Are you targeting writers with these efforts?

In terms of Google ads, you search for keywords, so you’re essentially looking for people searching for Internet-blocking software. You can target searches for “Internet blocking software for writers” or “motivation for writers”, but unfortunately not many people search for that, according to the Google analytics.. I guess it’s just searching for the keywords that writers use.

In terms of Facebook, you can construct ads around demographics, so you can focus on writers. You can also focus on any age group, from any town or country, so it’s very useful in that way. But we haven’t done any Facebook ads yet. We’re also considering Google+ in our promotion strategy.

Have you faced any challenges in protecting the brand?

The challenge is to promote it, rather than to protect it. It’s early days, so it’s about building up a profile. You may have a good product, and you may know thousands of people who would want to buy it, but it’s getting that message to them. Dealing with the Internet takes time.

Getting media and links is important for obtaining organic Google searches. Having famous people download, use and recommend the product is also useful.

After five days online, 500 people had signed up for the service, so that’s pretty good. We’ve had hardly any publicity, haven’t written any advertising, and we’re not listed in the organic Google searches.

Another challenge is that the Internet is worldwide, but our target market is the UK and US at the moment. There’s a logistical challenge of promoting the program in the US, so we’re hiring public relations and marketing people over there to do that; although not being there ourselves is an interesting challenge. We’ll see how that goes. 

This article was first published on 01 April 2014 in World IP Review

Webtrate, programs, Internet-blocking

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