Perhaps no task is more urgent for content sites than integrating ad campaigns between the Web and other media. Unless your content is focused on technology, long term survival requires advertising from people who currently buy broadcast, print or direct mail ads. And they're not going to come to us, we must come to them.
While online advertising is highly measurable it's not measured in the way Madison Avenue understands the term. What's the branding impact of a banner, a sponsorship, or a flash media ad, vs., say, that of a full color ad in "Time" Magazine? You don't know? Then how are you to compete with "Time," because "Time" knows how they measure up, as do its advertisers and their agencies.
A unit of Information Resources Inc. in Chicago is trying to provide such measurements through a product it calls the eMarkit Toolkit. It combines cookies and HTML tags to connect a marketer's web site to IRI's own consumer panel. By tracking what the panelists do at the sites IRI can tell how people are reacting to sites and ads.
The result has been a sea change in how the Web is viewed, as one executive told me recently. "We're viewing the Web as a retention, loyalty and cross-selling medium rather than as a medium designed to increase the size of the franchise."
That's bad. Corporations can do retention and loyalty on their own sites. They don't need yours.
As a result most of the "Madison Avenue" money going into Web content sites is going into those sites with major offline affiliations. That may not even represent new money. It may simply represent big companies moving money around in "combo" deals, essentially giving the Web away as part of a larger transaction (even if they then account for some of that money against Web spending).
Another big trend is to create Web ads that look and feel just like other media and make the user's computer screen just another TV set. Forbes.Com is about to do this working with an outfit called Zebus. The good news is the new format fits in the same boxes as the current "vertical banners" being deployed by the IAB. The new ads are also delivered by Zebus rather than sites, which only need add a few lines of code in order to support them. The bad news is this is being done on a site-by-site negotiation - no small sites need apply.
It won't be easy for smaller sites to break through, to gain Madison Avenue metrics or offer Madison Avenue ad spaces on their sites. The right approach is to deal directly with people offering the formats and to share resources, like an understanding of "Donovan Numbers". But it needs to be done, and it needs to be done quickly, or within a year the Web could look just like every other media. Such a result would destroy its usefulness.
A lot of interactive agencies have come and gone in the last few years, but there is a huge opportunity here for new ones (or old ones) to bring the great small sites of the 20th century safely into the 21st. And the key to success in the 21st century will be an ability to sell the products of the whole 20th century, not just those invented after 1995.
Boardwatch has launched its newsletter under my byline called ISP Executive. Check it out. I'm also doing a series of features this month for Advertising Age on new media technologies, for publication in June. If you want to be interviewed for it give me a call.
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Takes on the News
Not All News is Bad
When assumptions turn negative, even positive news gets drowned out. Your Clue is to keep an eye out for good news just as you look for bad news when times are good.
The last few weeks have seen a lot of good news. The University of Texas reported that for every dot-com worker laid-off last year, 20 new jobs were created . According to Jupiter Media Metrix Americans now spend 20 hours per week online, more time spent with any other medium but television. Even Webvan may survive, according to a University of Georgia study, because of increased user acceptance .
Did you notice that news? Of course you didn't. Not because it wasn't reported, but because it went against your biases. People talk all the time about "media bias," but journalists are taught to understand their biases and work to adjust against them. To succeed in business you must do the same.
Continuing Challenges to the Status Quo
Another great assumption of our time is that independents need to give up, that all media is owned by just a few companies and if you're not with them you're no one.
Yet challenges continue. The latest is from (of all people), Jesse Berst, who left his Anchordesk to the fat man and launched something called IZ.Com .
Like Jim and Audri Lanford's WZ.Com, IZ.Com tries to connect people independently with what they're passionate about. While WZ uses "guides" and links, IZ creates newsletters . Berst has brought most of his old crowd along with him .
Is this going to work? I don't know, and that doesn't matter much. What matters is that challenges to the status quo are constant because the Web lowers barriers to entry - it doesn't raise them. Any Big Media reporter who claims "You Can't Do It" lacks the courage to try for themselves.
Who Needs Broadband?
Kids need broadband. Game players need broadband. Broadband is needed to link minds together more directly - with more bandwidth - than has ever been possible before
For non-gamers broadband is mostly about always-on capability. The big opportunities are there for security outfits, for utility and appliance makers, and for home networking. (The equipment doesn't always work right now but that's a technical problem, not an economic one.) But (here's a dirty little secret) these are mainly narrowband applications. I could easily live with one-tenth of my current 1.5 Mbps speed if I could just get the sites I need to connect quickly.
But gamers are different. Games connect people at a very deep level, the way kids are connected by having other kids in the neighborhood. Real uses of real broadband come when adults are connected in the same way kids want to be. Find applications beyond games that require deep connections and you have a purpose to real broadband.
Clued-in is Dan Bricklin , who has come to the rescue of Blogger . If you see what his own company offers you'll see this is a Clued-in business move.
Clueless is Internet.Com for dumping the company's name as a corporate fashion statement. The only way this makes sense is if you're lining up for a sale, and the only sale that is possible now will be for pennies on the dollar. If you are an Internet company, show the courage to admit it when times are tough. You'll be rewarded for that when fashions change.