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How do E.U. Cities Utilise their Websites? A Content Analysis and Suggestions for Improvement

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Abstract

There is strong competition between the major cities of the European Union (EU) for tourism, investment and residential dollars. With the idea of reaching a competitive positioning in the market, these EU cities are starting to use their websites as a key marketing tool. However, the way in which they are taking advantage of this communication medium is largely unknown. Consequently, this study analyses the websites of European capital cities. Through a content analysis of the English version of each city's website, strengths and weaknesses are identified. Findings indicate that there is a substantial difference in the way the European capitals are utilising the opportunities that this medium offers. The content analysis revealed that the websites differ substantially in amount and variety of content, as well as in the interactive functions they provide. Some cities have very ambitious goals, while others use their websites simply as a vehicle to increase tourist numbers. Implications for improving the various websites of the capital cities of the EU are also presented. Journal of Internet Business
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
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How do E.U. Cities Utilise their Websites?
A Content Analysis and Suggestions for Improvement
Dr María Sicilia
University of Murcia
sicilia@um.es
Dr Maria Sicilia is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Murcia,
Spain. Dr Sicilia’s research interests are focused on Advertising and Consumer
Behaviour. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Business Research, International
Journal of Market Research, Journal of Advertising and the Journal of Interactive
Advertising. Dr Sicilia lectures in advertising, direct marketing and electronic
marketing.
Raquel Pérez
University of Murcia
raquel.perez@gmx.net
Raquel Pérez-Alonso holds Honours degrees in both Advertising and Public Relations
and Tourism completed at University of Murcia, Spain. She has spent short periods of
time studying at Cambridge and Oxford universities in the U.K., as well as at Göttingen,
Germany. Raquel Pérez-Alonso works for the Public Relations department for Pferd &
Reiter, located in Berlin.
Dr Troy Heffernan
University of Plymouth
Troy.heffernan@plymouth.ac.uk
Dr Troy Heffernan is a Senior Lecturer at the Plymouth Business School, Plymouth
University, UK. His commercial background is in the field of services marketing where
he concentrated on new product strategies for organisations both in Australia and
England. Dr Heffernan has over thirty refereed publications, ten of which are in
international journals. His areas of research include international relationship marketing,
services marketing and marketing education. In 2004 Dr Heffernan was awarded the
Australian and New Zealand Marketing Educator of the Year.
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
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How do E.U. Cities Utilise their Websites? A Content Analysis and
Suggestions for Improvement
María Sicilia
University of Murcia
Raquel Pérez
University of Murcia
Troy Heffernan
University of Plymouth
Abstract
There is strong competition between the major cities of the European Union (EU) for tourism,
investment and residential dollars. With the idea of reaching a competitive positioning in the
market, these EU cities are starting to use their websites as a key marketing tool. However, the
way in which they are taking advantage of this communication medium is largely unknown.
Consequently, this study analyses the websites of European capital cities. Through a content
analysis of the English version of each city’s website, strengths and weaknesses are identified.
Findings indicate that there is a substantial difference in the way the European capitals are
utilising the opportunities that this medium offers. The content analysis revealed that the
websites differ substantially in amount and variety of content, as well as in the interactive
functions they provide. Some cities have very ambitious goals, while others use their websites
simply as a vehicle to increase tourist numbers. Implications for improving the various websites
of the capital cities of the EU are also presented.
Keywords: Internet, website, European Union, capital cities, content analysis
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
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Introduction
Given the globalisation of the world’s economies coupled with the emergence of the internet,
city managers and planners are finding it critical to apply new and innovative strategies to make
their cities more competitive (Hospers, 2003). One obvious strategic alternative is the
development of an internet strategy, complete with a strong and distinct city website. However,
there has been limited research identifying how major cities utilise the potential of the internet.
Consequently, the agenda for this research is to explore how capital cities use their websites in
an attempt to gain a strategic competitive advantage in the marketplace.
From a marketing standpoint, we can note that cities are no longer local entities, but have
become products, with their own brand and image (Caldwell and Freire, 2004). As with any
other product, cities must consider the whole range of marketing activities, including adopting
specific positioning strategies (Gómez, 2000). These actions makeup what is commonly known
as city marketing. City marketing is an established practice within urban management and has
attracted the interest of many academic researchers from various disciplines resulting in a
substantial and growing body of knowledge (Kavartzis, 2007; Kotler et al., 1999).
Coupled with this growth in city marketing, there have been enormous developments in the field
of information technologies, especially the internet (Bellman et al., 2006). The internet has
meant that literately billions of people can easily access a broad range of information at a ‘press
of a button’, no matter where, geographically, they are. Consequently, city administrators and
management need to embrace the internet and the use of websites to help achieve their strategic
marketing goals. The internet presence of a city can include several elements, including; city
hall management issues, tourism information, business, economic and investors perspectives
(for example; Chamber of Commerce business directory), an online shopping facility, a local
magazine and a section for citizen support. Therefore, functions with a more local or regional
nature (administrative functions) and more global functions (designed to improve the image and
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positioning of the city) can be successfully combined within the same virtual space.
However, traditionally it has been observed that the marketing philosophy and particular
marketing functions have been slow to be integrated into city management. Normally the extent
of marketing is based around surface level advertising (Warnaby and Davies, 1997).
Consequently, this research intends to develop a better understanding of the online marketing
strategy developed by cities, which has so far received minimal attention in the literature
(Caldwell and Freire, 2004). This will be achieved by focusing on how European Union capitals
use the web to enhance their development and to construct a favourable image of the cities they
represent. A further objective of this paper is to identify starting points for improving city
marketing strategies on the WWW.
To help achieve the objectives stated above, this paper will be divided into the following
sections: firstly, we review the extant literature relating to city marketing and the use of the
internet as a communication tool for image construction. Secondly, the research questions are
identified. This is followed by an extensive examination of the research methodology adopted.
Fourthly, the results are presented and discussed. Fifthly, implications for city managers
responsible for internet strategy are identified, coupled with ideas for improvement. Finally,
limitations and conclusions are drawn.
Marketing Cities on the Internet
A review of the extant literature reveals a broad range of academic interest with regard to
locations, for example, countries, cities, towns and regions, as the focus of marketing activity
(for a summary see Kavaratzis, 2004; Kavaratzis, 2007). Marketing theory, when applied to city
management, requires the application of the appropriate methods to achieve the goals proposed
by the city managers (Matson, 1994). These goals can be diverse, from satisfying current
residents to attracting tourists to increasing investments and even acquisition new inhabitants.
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As a consequence, the same product is sold at the same time as a residential city, a employment
city, an opportunity city or many other ‘cities’ to similar or quite different customers. Having
different targets: residents, non-residents, tourists, investors, managers, institutions and local
companies, implies that the strategies could be varied taking into account the particularities of
each segment. This peculiarity makes it more difficult to create a coherent image, because it can
be affected by many factors, even those which go beyond the city, such as the image of the
country as a whole (O´Shaughnessy and O´Shaughnessy, 2000).
There are two strategies that cities can use to distinguish themselves. The first is through the
tangible aspects of the city, such as the design, infrastructure, services and history. The second
way relies on intangible aspects, such as the personality of the city, its citizens’ values, its rate
of knowledge and information, or the links the city has with the rest of the world. Both of these
constitute the brand personality that refers to a unique combination of functional attributes and
symbolic attributes with which the target market identify (Hankinson 2001).
Differentiation through intangible aspects can be enhanced by using information technologies
(Cadwell and Freire, 2004). Through the internet, information and knowledge can be
transferred, links with the rest of the world enhanced and features of the city’s personality can
be promoted. The strategy of differentiation can be communicated by using a variety of
communication tools. However, the fastest growing method of communication, particularly in
the context of city marketing, is the internet, and the utilisation of a website.
Research has shown that websites are powerful tools for promoting identities and images, and
building relationships with audiences (Hwang et al., 2003, Pollach, 2005; Sicilia et al., 2005).
Furthermore, websites have a number of advantages that can contribute to a city reaching its
marketing goals. These are listed below (Ariely, 2000; Bellman et al., 2006; Ju-Pak, 1999;
Klein, 2003; Novak et al., 2000; Pollach, 2005; Schlosser, 2003; Weiber and Kollmann, 1998):
the WWW is a pull medium, which means that audiences have more control over what
they want to see than traditional media;
each individual selects only the content which is of interest to them;
the access to information is realized in a dynamic and active form;
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there are reductions in information dissemination costs, as a large amount of
information can be transferred at minimal cost;
the internet increases the potential of reaching varied target markets;
the content is accessible 24 hour of the day from any location connected to the WWW.
It seems clear that the internet represents an effective medium to help contribute to a city’s
positioning. The website of a city represents a city’s window into this connected, global and
electronic world. It has become the first information source for most people and most
companies interested in a particular city. Traditionally, however, the public sector has been slow
to accept and implement most marketing techniques (Matson, 1994). In fact, marketing in a city
context is usually restricted to city promotions (Warnaby and Davies, 1997). If indeed cities are
taking advantage of this medium, this should be evidenced in city websites when examining
their content and interactive features.
Quality of Content and Interactive Features
As highlighted above, this study focuses on two key advantages of using a website for
marketing a city. The first one is content related and the second is interactivity. Content is a
critical success factor in the online world (Pollach, 2005). It is an inherent strength of the web to
convey more detailed information than traditional communication (i.e. print) can. In addition,
people have more time to read and digest as well as organize the information (Macias and
Lewis, 2003).
Content may be evaluated using criteria such as amount, variety, relevance, timeliness,
reliability, scope, and usefulness. According to Palmer (2002), the quality of the content, when
measured in terms of amount of information and variety, is positively correlated with the
success of the site, measured in terms of frequency of use, likelihood of return and user
satisfaction. As there are different information needs depending on the target, the more
information variety the website has, the more it satisfies customer information needs. Quantity
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is also important, as it reduces the chance of the customer looking for the required information
from other information sources.
A second critical aspect of an effective website is interactivity (Macias and Lewis, 2003; Sicilia
et al., 2005). Interactivity can be explained as the facility for individuals and organizations to
communicate directly with one another regardless of distance or time (Berthon et al., 1996; Ha
and James, 1998). This conceptualization stems from an interpersonal communication
perspective of interactivity. A second conceptualization stems from a mechanical perspective
(Coyle and Thorson, 2001); as, with a website, individuals can interact with the medium itself.
Such interaction allows consumers to control what information will be presented, in what order
and for how long (Ariely, 2000; Steuer,1992). That is, unlike a traditional linear text with a
clear beginning, middle, and end, where consumers are strongly encouraged to read all
information in a particular order, non-linear content based on hyperlinks encourage users to
selectively scan the content (Eveland and Dunwoody, 2002; Eveland et al., 2004).
Considering both of these definitions, websites can be categorized according to the level of
interactivity provided (Coyle and Thorson, 2001; Ha and James, 1998). Interactivity enhances
both the communication process and customer relationships. Several researchers agree in the
importance of using interactive tools to be competitive and successful (Bellman et al., 2006;
Klein, 2003; Macias and Lewis, 2003) because it can be critical in getting surfers involved in
the communication process (Ghose and Dou, 1998; Sicilia et al., 2005). Ultimately, the WWW
enables companies to learn more about their audiences by including interactive features on their
websites to encourage visitors to enter into a dialogue.
These two aspects, the quality and quantity of contents and the interactive features the website
provide, are essential components to understanding how cities are communicating with their
target markets through the WWW.
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Research Questions
The applicability of marketing theory and practice in urban governance and administration is a
matter of great interest, especially within the changing environment in which cities in Europe
operate (Kavaratzis, 2004). In pursuit of wider urban management goals, cities throughout
Europe are increasingly utilising the concepts and techniques of product branding for use within
their marketing strategy. However, there is a recognisable gap in the literature with regards to
case studies that explore this research agenda (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). Consequently,
this study focuses on European cities for several reasons. There is more pressure placed on the
management of the cities to achieve their strategic goals, especially within the new conditions
created by European integration (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). Europe is increasingly open
to foreign investment, exports and imports are no longer complex, and the mobility of both
labour and capital is growing. As competition among European cities grows, the efficiency of
management becomes increasingly important (Wöber et al., 2003). As a result of this integration
process, cities all over Europe are putting increased emphasis on marketing techniques in their
administration practices and governing philosophies (Kavaratzis, 2004).
Generally, public sector organizations have been criticized for not fully exploiting the
opportunities offered by new mediums (Schultz, 1999), particularly in the area of marketing
(Matson, 1994). Much of the emphasis to date has been on the marketing of cities as tourist
destinations (Wöber, 2003). That is the main reason why some researchers argue that most city
managers use marketing only in terms of promotional activity rather than as a philosophy to
identify and satisfy customer needs (Warnaby and Davies, 1997). If this is also applicable to the
internet, city managers might only be utilising a small percentage of the internet’s capabilities.
Consequently, their internet strategy may be limited, for example, using the web as a form of
promotional tool, with no interactive capacity, just for potential tourists. Therefore, certain
doubts emerge regarding how cities are using this communication tool. The lack of contents or
not fully exploiting the interactive nature of this medium could hamper a city’s strategic
objectives.
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Consequently, the central objective of this research is to ascertain how EU capitals are using
their websites to satisfy their different target markets. Therefore, this study will analyse the
information offered by each website and its interactive functions, so we can compare among
countries. From this analysis we can extract conclusions about the current strategies followed by
European cities and propose possible strategies to improve their internet marketing
performance. Consequently, the following two research questions are proposed:
Research question 1: How successful are the capital cities of the EU in using their website as a
marketing tool?
Research question 2: How can the capital cities of the EU improve their utilisation of their
website as a marketing tool?
Research Method
A web content analysis procedure was adopted for this research. Both the quality and quantity
of content and interactive features of websites were examined in order to determine how the city
uses their website to communicate with a range of target markets. Methodological
recommendations based on previous studies (Hwang et al., 2003; Kassarjian, 1977; Kolbe and
Burnett, 1991; Macias and Lewis, 2003; Okazaki and Alonso, 2002; Pollach, 2005) were
carefully reviewed in an attempt to increase the reliability and validity of the findings.
Sample selection and data collection: Content analysis is a very detailed and time consuming
process and this places restrictions on the size of the final sample (Harris and Attour, 2003).
Consequently, it was decided to focus on capital cities of the European Union; therefore, the
sample was drawn from these cities official websites. The official websites of European capitals
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were located through “Eurocities” (http://www.eurocities.org) association, which is composed
of 130 European cities. Founded in 1986, the network brings together the local governments of
European cities. Eurocities provides a platform from which to share knowledge, ideas and
experiences. The sample is described in more detail in Appendix One, however, some facts
include: of the 25 European capitals selected the largest, in terms of population are London,
Berlin, Madrid, and Paris. The more favoured tourist destinations are London, Rome, Paris,
Berlin and Madrid. Finally, the cities belonging to countries with the highest GDP per capita are
Luxembourg, Dublin, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
Procedure: Analysis of web-based information adds new complexity to the process of content
analysis (Hwang et al., 2003). Defining the unit of analysis for a sample of websites is
particularly difficult, because of the hierarchy and interconnectedness of individual pages and
the presence of elements that do not contain information as such, but merely provide
information about other pages, e.g. annotated links or icons (Okazaki and Rivas, 2002). This
makes the job of the coder more challenging than content analysis conducted on traditional
media (Hwang et al., 2003).
In this study, the analysis is restricted to the English version of each website, as English could
be considered the most predominate international language used in business. To ensure the
reliability of the method used, the websites were analyzed by two independent, native English
coders. The coders were instructed to explore the website thoroughly and to code the entire site
(the English version) in order to gain the clearest picture of how the website was being used by
the European capitals. The websites were first accessed on July 15, 2006, and the coding was
completed from August through September 2006. In accordance with Kolbe and Burnett’s
(1991) recommendations, the two coders were unaware of the study’s purpose.
Coding Scheme: Researchers generally need to develop their own coding scheme for analyzing
content (Hwang et al., 2003). Before the final content analysis was conducted, a series of initial
pre-tests were used to develop a coding scheme. These pre-tests were primarily aimed at
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identifying ways to measure the type of audiences addressed and the depth of detail each section
contained.
In order to analyze content variety it was necessary to develop an initial exploration of the 25
sites. The two coders made the initial inspection during the second half of July 2006. This
allowed the researchers to delimit a total of nine categories of different contents, being:
administration, business, tourism, culture, education, health, housing, history and job/career
development.
The next phase of this research consisted of establishing a system to assess the unit of analysis
(the cities website). Though several analytical frameworks have been developed for websites
(Okazaki and Rivas, 2002; Hwang et al., 2003, Pollack, 2005), these were found to be unsuitable
for the underlying analysis, as they do not incorporate measurement of amount and variety of
contents. Consequently, the framework used to assess the cities’ websites is laid out below.
First, the coders were asked to identify and code the presence of the corresponding categories in
each website. Measurement was achieved using a nominal scale as to the existence of each
category. Values of “1” or “0” were assigned depending on the presence or absence of the
category in the website. Differences in codification between the two coders were resolved by
discussion (as suggested by Kassarjian, 1977). This type of codification has been used in
previous content analysis studies (see for example for an analysis of Robbins and Stylianou
2003).
The second objective of the coders was to assess the amount of information within each category.
The amount of information was ranked using a scale that ranges from one to nine. Coders were
asked to rate the amount of information contained in each section of the website. Following
Winzar and Savik (2002), the amount of information was measured on a 9 point semantic
differential scale. Appendix Two provides a guideline of the most common information contents
included in each information category. Such guidelines helped coders in order to rank the cities’
websites. This coding system is similar to that used in Okazaki (2005), who assessed whether a
website had appropriate information associated with “job/career development”.
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Thirdly, interactive functions were analyzed. The WWW enables organizations to include
interactive features on their websites to encourage visitors to interact with the site (Bellman et
al., 2006; Klein, 2003). We examined three aspects of interactivity; whether the web had a
search engine, whether it offered an e-mail contact and whether it included a virtual tour of the
city. A search engine is a navigational feature that enables the audience to find the desired
information quickly and easily. The e-mail facility is important as it can be used to establish
relationships between the city and its audiences. It can serve as a fast, asynchronous means of
interpersonal communication. Finally, a virtual tour allows the different targets to know the city
without physically being there. It is an example of a virtual experience of a product, before
consuming it (Klein, 2003). Coders determined the presence or absence of the three interactive
features analyzed, e-mail contact, search engine and virtual tour of the city. Values of “1” or “0”
were assigned depending on the inclusion of these features in the English version of each site.
Whilst not a key agenda of this research, atmospheric aspects of each website were also
examined. This included the following areas: images, photos, size and font of the texts and the
combination of colours. The coders were instructed to take notes about their impression of these
aspects for each website. This information will be used in the Implications for City Management
section to provide some insights into possible website improvements.
Reliability Measurement: Average time coding each site was approximately 30 minutes for
the initial pre-test and four hours for the codifications. Intercoder agreement was calculated
using a reliability index suggested by Perreault and Leigh (1989), which is considered to be the
best among various researchers (Kolbe and Burnett, 1991; Okazaki and Alonso Rivas, 2002).
The reliability index ranged from 100% for the presence of virtual tour to a 60% for the amount
of information contained in each section. After coding all web sites, one of the authors
evaluated the sites independently and later compared her results with those of the coders. Most
reliability indexes exceeded the critical value recommended by Perrault and Leigh (1989).
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Results
Quality and quantity of contents: Do European capitals include variety and substance on
their websites?
The first object of this research was to examine whether the official websites of the EU capital
cities provided information for all their target markets. These target markets were;
administration, business, tourism, culture, education, health, housing, history and the job/career
market. Consequently, each website was analysed to ascertain if information for the
corresponding target market was included, and if so, how much information was presented.
Table One summarises the results for the variety and amount of content. The websites of
London, Vienna, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Tallinn provide appropriate information in all
categories. Thus, any member of the numerous target markets could find information of interest
on these sites. Both Vienna and London where seen as the websites with the strongest content in
all areas. London also had highly developed tourism-related content, highlighting its leading
position as a tourist attraction. Helsinki, Prague, Madrid, Brussels, and Dublin include all
categories, however, a few of these sites lacked depth of information in some of these areas. At
the other end of the spectrum, Lisbon, Valletta, Luxembourg, Budapest, Nicosia, Athens and
Rome, did not have websites that covered all the content that would be expected of a capital
cities’ official website. For these cities, there was mainly tourism-related content and some
relevant information about the history and the culture of the city.
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City Admins
-tration Job Busi-
ness Tourism Culture Edu-
cation Health History Housing Variety/
Amount
London 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 9/9
Vienna 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 9/9
Amsterdam 1/9 1/9 1/7 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 9/8.7
Berlin 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/7 1/5 1/9 1/3 9/7.7
Tallinn 1/9 1/7 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/3 1/9 1/3 9/7.7
Helsinki 1/3 1/9 1/3 1/9 1/7 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/3 9/6.7
Prague 1/1 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/8 1/2 1/9 1/9 1/3 9/6.5
Madrid 1/9 1/3 1/3 1/9 1/7 1/3 1/5 1/9 1/3 9/5.7
Brussels 1/3 1/3 1/9 1/9 1/7 1/3 1/5 1/9 1/3 9/5.7
Dublin 1/3 1/1 1/9 1/9 1/7 1/2 1/1 1/9 1/6 9/5.2
Stockholm 1/9 0/- 1/9 1/9 1/9 1/5 1/5 1/9 1/6 8/7.6
Paris 1/1 1/2 1/1 1/9 1/9 1/5 0/- 1/9 1/3 8/4.8
Copenhagen 1/3 0/- 1/1 1/9 1/7 1/2 1/2 1/4 1/3 8/3.8
Bratislava 1/5 1/1 0/- 1/9 1/9 1/1 0/- 1/9 1/3 7/5.3
Riga 1/7 0/- 1/1 1/9 1/9 1/1 1/2 1/9 0/- 7/5.1
Warsaw 1/3 0/- 1/3 1/9 1/7 1/1 1/1 1/9 0/- 7/4.7
Ljubljana 0/- 0/- 1/2 1/9 1/9 1/1 1/3 1/9 0/- 6/5.5
Vilnius 1/1 0/- 1/2 1/9 1/7 0/- 1/3 1/9 0/- 6/5.2
Rome 0/- 0/- 1/1 1/9 1/7 1/1 1/3 1/9 0/- 6/5
Athens 1/1 0/- 1/1 1/9 1/7 0/- 1/1 1/9 0/- 6/4.7
Nicosia 1/4 0/- 1/1 1/2 1/1 0/- 1/2 1/9 0/- 6/3.2
Budapest 1/9 0/- 0/- 1/9 1/7 0/- 1/3 1/9 0/- 5/7.4
Luxembourg 0/- 0/- 1/2 1/9 1/7 0/- 0/- 1/3 0/- 4/5.2
Valletta 1/3 0/- 0/- 1/4 1/5 0/- 0/- 1/3 0/- 4/3.7
Lisbon 0/- 0/- 0/- 1/9 1/7 0/- 0/- 0/8 0/- 3/8
Table 1: Variety and Amount of Contents
Note: The first number indicates whether it includes the category or not and the second whether the
amount of information is high or low (from 9 when it is very high to 1 when it is very low).
Interactive features: Are the websites utilizing interactive features?
The second objective of this study was to determine the extent to which European capitals were
making use of the three interactive features examined. Overall, and rather surprisingly, use of
interactivity features was relatively low. As can be seen in Table Two, only five cities (Vienna,
London, Prague, Madrid, and Dublin) include the three interactive features: search engine, e-
mail and a virtual tour of the city. 15 cities had a search engine, 21 included an e-mail and 11
incorporated a virtual tour of the city in the English version of the website. It was somewhat
surprising that, in 2006, contact information was not provided by four European capitals as this
is a key feature necessary for building relationships with the customers (Macias and Lewis,
2003). It is also interesting to note that the city of Brussels, capital of the EU, has not included
any interactive feature in its website.
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City Search engine E-mail
contact Virtual Tour of the
city Total
Vienna 1 1 1
3
London 1 1 1
3
Pra
g
ue 1 1 1
3
Madrid 1 1 1
3
Dublin 1 1 1
3
Berlin 1 0 1 2
Buda
p
es
t
1 1 0 2
Rome 0 1 1 2
Ri
g
a 1 0 1 2
N
icosia 1 1 0 2
Co
p
enha
en 1 1 0 2
Bratislava 1 1 0 2
Amsterda
m
1 1 0 2
Warsaw 0 1 1 2
Liubliana 0 1 1 2
Tallinn 1 1 0 2
Helsinki 1 1 0 2
Paris 1 1 0 2
Athens 0 1 0 1
Vilnius 0 1 0 1
Luxembour
g
0 1 0 1
Valletta 0 1 0 1
Lisbon 0 0 1 1
Stockhol
m
0 1 0 1
Brussels 0 0 0
0
Total 15 21 11 -
Table 2: Interactive Features
Strengths and weaknesses of the European Union capital Cities websites:
Before suggestions can be given on how to improve each website, their strengths and
weaknesses need to be assessed. Table Three shows the main strengths and weaknesses of each
city’s website. Some of the key issues include; the website for Rome does not offer an English
version for the complete website. Only when you click on the link “Roma turismo” in their
Italian version, you can find some information in English. It is also surprising that the website
for Brussels has a number of weaknesses. Being the capital of the European Union, Brussels
enjoys a particular status, which makes it different and unique (Jansen-Verbeke et al., 2005).
Since Brussels has become the capital of the EU, it has attempted to improve its image and
positioning. For this reason it should be expected that Brussels would make good use of the
Internet’s communication potential. However, Brussels’s website does not provide enough
information in many sections and it does not include an e-mail contact, a search engine or a
virtual tour of the city. Similarly, the city of Paris, which is considered one of the most
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important European Capitals for historical, cultural, and economic reasons, is one the cities that
needs to improve its website. It has not fully developed any of the contents except tourism,
culture and history, which usually serve the tourist sector of the market.
City Strengths Weaknesses
Vienna Directed to all types of target markets with
outstanding information.
London The most complete section is tourism. The other sections could still be slightly improvements.
Amsterdam Complete contents. Does not include a virtual tour of the city.
Berlin Very good information in the main sections. Lacking an E-mail (exists only in the German version)
Tallinn The most complete sections are the following:
tourism, history and culture. The health and housing sections need to be improved
Helsinki Good information in general. Poor business and administration sections
Prague Good information in general. Administration, housing and education sections are very
superficial.
Dublin Very good information related to the business
section. Lacking quality information about administration,
education and work.
Madrid Especially good for tourists, students and residents. There is no information about business, housing and
education.
Stockholm Very good sections for business and tourism. Nothing about work and lacking information about health
and housing.
Brussels Strong section on tourism and business Lacking relevant information, especially about work.
Does not contain any interactive feature.
Copenhagen Specially directed to tourist (tourism, culture and
history of the city). Does not have a work section.
Lacking information in the rest of the sections.
Warsaw Strong information in the tourism and housing
sections. Most sections are poorly developed.
There is no search engine.
Paris Well developed section for tourist and foreign
students. Lack of development of the larger part of the contents and
lacking a health section.
Riga Administration and tourism are well developed. Information very superficial. Lacking housing and work.
information.
Rome Specialized in tourism. It also contains historical
and cultural information.
The city website does not have an English translation.
There is only a link to tourism with information in
English.
Budapest Administration, tourism and health are well
developed. Lacks information in general and lacking sections like
work, business, education and housing.
Vilnius Good sections on tourism and business. There is no information about education or housing.
Nicosia Complete sections on administration and business. Most sections lacking a lot of relevant information.
Ljubljana Specialized in tourism. It has no information on administration, work and housing
Lacking a search engine.
Bratislava The website has a very sound structure Superficial content and lacking business and health
sections.
Athens Directed to tourists. Lacking work, education and housing sections.
Luxembourg Specialized in tourism. It has strong culture and
history sections. Limited business section and lacking other contents.
Valletta The history section is the most developed. Superficial information in most sections.
Lisbon Only directed to tourists.
It includes cultural information of interest. Lacking relevant information about other content.
Table 3: Strengths and weaknesses of the cities websites
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
17
Implications for City Management
It is imperative that city managers have the flexibility to adapt to changes in their micro and
macro environments. These forces of change can come in many forms; however, information
technology and the economic globalization phenomenon (Gordon, 1999; Hospers, 2003) are two
key ones. Considering the opportunities and threats that could materialise from these two forces
of change, city management need to carefully consider their internet strategy. Particularly, in the
form of their cities websites. How does the city serve the needs of all their markets? Not just the
tourists.
Different target markets demand different services from their city’s website. The absence of
information quality and quantity from the official website can lead to users looking for other
information sources (either on the internet or through traditional media), with the consequence
of wasting time and effort. Furthermore, many cities do not take advantage of the pull character
of interactive communication. The basic tenet of Petty and Cacioppo’s Elaboration Likelihood
Model (1983), which argues that the effectiveness of persuasion depends on the audience’s
involvement, cannot be pursued if interactive features are not included. Even worse, it can
damage the image of the city in the eyes of the target markets that are being pursued.
To complete this study, some design aspects (presence of images or photos, size of the pages,
ease of navigation, menu structure, text size and font, and colour combinations) were analyzed
by the coders. The study of these design aspects, coupled with the previous content analysis, has
meant that tentative recommendations for improving EU capital city websites can be given.
Table Four highlights some suggestions for website improvements that city management should
consider. The implementation of these ideas will allow managers to increase the effectiveness of
their website in serving their various target markets.
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
18
London Add more links to the main menu. Some content is not accessible from the main page.
Make it easier to access tourism content.
Vienna Change the e-mail location. It is in the “credits and disclaimer” paragraph to the top of the page.
Design suggestion: Add more colour to the site
Amsterdam Improve the menu. There are too many links. The information should be grouped to make the navigation
easier.
Berlin
An E-mail leads to the added English version of the website, in order to enable the users to communicate
with the city.
Change the housing, health and education contents to the left menu and dispense with all the information
on the bottom
Tallinn Develop the content in specific sections, especially housing.
Remove the E-mail at the bottom of the page and place it in a more visible location.
Helsinki Add more information in the business and administration sections.
Design suggestion: Change the font to make it more user friendly.
Prague
The information at the bottom of the page should be included in the lower menu on the left side, as it has
the same title
“news”.
Dublin Add information for the education section.
Add a more visible link to the official tourism website.
Madrid
Improve the business section and translate the education and housing sections into English.
Improve the main menu.
The search engine should be more visible. Locate this at the top of the site.
Brussels
Improve the menus to make it easier to access contents. Remove the unnecessary transition pages.
Develop the housing, work and health content.
Translate more of the contents to English; large parts are only in French and Dutch.
Design suggestion: Improve the page style and include more photos and images.
Stockholm Add a work section to the website.
Specify the name of the different contents sections on the main menu.
Copenhagen
Improve the connection between links. The numerous errors can irritate the visitors.
Add the work, health and housing sections. Extend the information in the education section.
Translate more contents into English. When the search engine is used, most of the contents displayed are in
Danish.
Warsaw
Add information about work and housing and develop other sections like education, health, administration
and business.
Narrow the homepage, in order to avoid the user having to move the screen from left to right.
Paris
Add a health section and improve the administration, work, business and education sections.
Remove the duplications and error messages in certain links.
Translate more contents into other languages, or at least offer a complete English translation.
Budapest Add the housing, work and business sections and include the respective links in the homepage.
Riga Add work and housing sections and develop further education, business and health.
Shorten the homepage and concentrate the most important links in the most visible part of the website.
Vilnius Add work, housing and education sections and develop further the health and administration sections.
Nicosia
Add work and housing sections and develop more sections on education, culture, tourism and health.
Make it easier to access the business section.
Add a specific section for tourism.
Style suggestion: Change the text font and add more images.
Bratislava
Develop the culture, education and housing sections and add sections like business and health.
Translate more content into English
Change the name of some links in order that they reflect the content better, i.e. tourism is in the culture
section.
Reduce the length of the homepage and place the search engine in all pages.
Design suggestion: improve the images throughout the website.
Rome Translate the official web into English or at least specify which contents besides tourism (culture, health
and history)
Ljubljana Add to the homepage the administration, business, work, housing and health sections.
Reduce the size of the homepage, especially the right side and add a search engine.
Athens Add sections like work, education and housing and develop sections like administration, health and
b
usiness.
Luxembourg Translate more contents into English.
Add important contents on administration, business, housing, education and health
Valletta Add sections like: business, housing, education, health and work. Further develop administration.
Connect the official web of Valletta with Malta´s official web, which contain more information.
Lisbon
Add sections like housing, work and health, which are only offered in Portuguese.
Translate the web into English (only a link to tourism exists).
Design suggestion: shorten the website.
Table 4: Suggestions for Website Improvements
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
19
Limitations, Further Research, and Conclusions
There are several limitations to this study that need to be considered. Regarding the method,
content analysis can be constrained in its potential as it reports specific elements of a
phenomenon (Kolbe and Burnett, 1991). This is highlighted in the fact that we limited our study
to the quality and quantity of content (measured in terms of variety and amount of content) and
the interactive features the websites included. Secondly, the findings of this study are limited by
the fast-paced nature of the internet. The content and structure of the pages may have changed
substantially since the research was conducted (Pollach, 2005; Robbins and Stylianou, 2003).
Our conclusions must therefore be seen as only indicative for the situation at the time of
analysis, though a longitudinal approach would overcome this limitation (Robbins and
Stylianou, 2003). In addition, the analysis was restricted to the English version of each websites;
so unconsciously we are paying more attention to non local targets in the case of non-English
speaking countries, such as tourists, foreign investors, and potential residents. However, it still
remains to be seen to what extent one can extrapolate these results to other languages. It is very
likely that websites are first developed in their native language and later translated to other
languages. As a consequence our analysis could be more homogeneous than thought. However,
this research could have possibly advantaged the English speaking countries (Great Britain and
Ireland).
Two major arenas for further research are considered. Firstly, research should examine other
web related aspects, such as menu organization, depth or levels of information, number of clicks
required to access the desired information and additional interactive functions (see for example
the work of Hellemans and Govers, 2005). This research has only acknowledged that there exist
important differences between the websites regarding these aspects, but has not account for
them. Secondly, a broader sample from a larger number of cities (other European and also non-
European) should be analyzed to make more generalized conclusions regarding the
communication strategies followed by major cities.
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
20
In conclusion, this study served to examine the communication strategy that European capitals
are projecting online. In general, our findings indicate that European capitals recognise the
importance of the internet in achieving their own objectives. However, there appears to be an
immense difference in the way European capitals are using the opportunities that this medium
offers. The content analysis has revealed that the English version of the websites differ
substantially in amount and variety of contents, as well as in the interactive functions they
provide. Some cities have very ambitious goals, while others simply used their websites as a
vehicle to enhance the city as a tourist attraction.
As a whole, this study shows that only a few cities have wide target market coverage and make
significant use of interactive functions. Thus, most cities are not realizing the full potential of
their website. However, this is only a starting point and, consequently, city management should
use the findings generated in this paper as ‘food for thought’. When reflecting on their internet
strategy, city management might want to consider two key subjects. One: Does our website
provide for, at an appropriate level, all the relevant target markets for our city? Two: Are there
interactive features integrated throughout our website that allow for ease of use and the
development of two way communication? If city managers ponder these questions, this paper
has achieved its objective.
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
21
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Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
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APPENDIX ONE
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES AND THEIR CAPITALS. MAIN DATA
Country
GDP Per Capita* ($)
Capital1
Inhabitants-city2
Tourists -city3
Germany 33.356 Berlin 3.396.990 14.620.315
Austria 37.378 Vienna 1.656.560 4.088.415
Belgium 35.843 Brussels 144.784 4.650.013
Cyprus 20.500 Nicosia 200.686 ND
Denmark 48.530 Copenhagen 501.612 4.144.438
Slovakia 9.471 Bratislava 446.819 1.107.304
Slovenia 17.535 Ljubljana 265.881 565.649
Spain 27.815 Madrid 3.155.359 13.448.972
Estonia 10.342 Tallin 400.378 1.938.045
Finland 36.928 Helsinki 560.905 2.555.310
France 33.387 Paris 2.144.700 15.399.820
Greece 20.545 Athens 745.514 ND
Hungary 11.375 Budapest 1.697.343 6.536.950
Ireland 49.533 Dublín 505.739 4.991.000
Italy 30.144 Rome 2.547.932 23.080.724
Latvia 8.401 Riga 731.762 ND
Lithuania 8.310 Vilnius 553.528 ND
Luxembourg 76.224 Luxembourg 77.325 801.914
Malta 13.847 Valletta 7.650 1.156.000*
Netherlands 38.232 Ámsterdam 743.393 4.517.000
Poland 8.410 Warsaw 1.697.596 ND
Portugal 17.224 Lisbon 529.485 5.109.180
United Kingdom 36.875 London 7.517.700 24.500.000
Czech Republic 12.587 Prague 1.181.610 11.204.950
Sweden 39.562 Stockholm 776.545 5.024.135
(1) Dates of 2006 source: www.wikipedia.org.
(2) Based in the last census realized in each city
(3) Tourist in 2005, except Valetta from 2004. Source: “Institut für Tourismus und Freizeitwirschaft”,
from Viena University.
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
25
APPENDIX TWO
INFORMATION CATEGORIES & COMMON CONTENTS INCLUDED
Administration
Administrative structure
Mayor
City councillors
The city administration
Projects
Education
Child-care centres
Public school
University
Directions of interest
Other information
Job
work permissions
where to find a job
information for EU citizens
Information for not EU citizens
Other information
Health
Health insurance
List of Doctors
List of Hospitals
List of emergency telephones.
Other information
Business
Information for invest
Facts and Figures
Necessary’s documents for EU citizens.
Necessary’s documents for not EU citizens.
Convention Bureau
History
Past History
Contemporaneous History
Tourism
Sightseeing
Accommodation
Recommendations
Photos
Other information
Housing
Right of residence
Assistance to find a house con
Directions of interest
Other information
Culture
Museums
Theatre
Events
Tickets online
Other information
Journal of Internet Business Issue 5 - 2008
26
APPENDIX THREE
OFICIAL WEBSITES
Berlin
http://www.berlin.de Stockholm
http://www.stockholm.se Paris
http://www.v1.paris.fr
Vienna
http://www.wien.gv.at Dublin
http://www.dublincity.ie Athens
http://www.cityofathens.gr
Amsterdam
http://www.amsterdam.nl Warsaw
http://warszawa.um.gov.pl Budapest
http://www.budapest.hu/Engine.aspx
London
http://www.london.gov.uk Brussels
http://www.brucity.be Riga
http://www.riga.lv
Tallinn
http://www.tallinn.ee Nicosia
http://www.nicosia.org.cy Valletta
http://www.cityofvalletta.org/cityofvalletta/home.asp
Helsinki
http://www.hel.fi Copenhagen
http://www3.kk.dk Roma
http://www.comune.roma.it
Prague
http://www.praha-mesto.cz Bratislava
http://www.bratislava.sk Luxembourg
http://www.luxembourg-city.lu
Madrid
http://www.munimadrid.es Ljubljana
http://www.ljubljana.si Lisbon
http://www.cm-lisboa.pt
Vilnius
http://www.vilnius.lt
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E-Government is an important and integral part of public administration. It complements and develops public governance through ICT tools, thereby striving to make public services more efficient. An important variable for the successful deployment and use of ICT tools in the field of public administration is the web site of public institutions and their usability rate. Websites should meet certain conditions that simplify communication either between individual public administration entities or between public administrations and citizens. This means that the usability of public institutions' web sites is one of the most important factors for this interaction. The aim of this article is to 1) summarize the most relevant ways of measuring e-Government in the world; 2) to approach ways of measuring e-Government in Slovakia; 3) to apply the selected way of measuring the level of websites usability to selected cities in Slovakia.
Conference Paper
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E-government is an important and integral part of public administration management, while e-Government complements and develops public governance through ICT tools, thereby striving to make providing of public services more efficient. An important variable for the successful deployment and use of ICT tools in the field of public administration is the web site of the institutions and their current development. Websites should meet certain conditions that simplify communication between individual public administrations, or between public administrations and citizens. This means that the usability of public institutions' websites is one of the critical factors for this kind of interaction. Aim of this paper is 1) to find out if there was differencies in results of web sites assessment made by independent state control and researchers who used specific methodologies abroad; 2) to explain methodology of independent control made by Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic and thanks to results to show actual state of web development of Slovak municipalities. Points for Practitioners: Every researcher in academic or scientific area needs sufficient data. This is more important if we are talking about the newest area of research such as e-Government in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Every new data and information in this area is valuable because e-Government is quite new research area in CEE. This paper provides new data from from e-Government area of Slovakia that can be used for another research. We analyse differencies between independent state assessment and researchers assessment of web sites of municipalities abroad and independet state assessment of web sites in Slovakia.
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