Online Media Meet Market

Most writers view advertising as a necessary evil. Working for a weblog software company which makes the tools that many writers are using, I’m always on the lookout for an interactive agency that "gets it" and can provide a bridge for the considerable financial resources of its clients to make its way to my customers’ pockets so they can succeed. In my ideal world, good advertising should compliment good writing and create an experience which can co-exist in a way that adds value to a site.

I regret to say that I didn’t see it on the Ad-Tech trade show floor. As with my previous brush at another online advertising show, it was the usual mosh pit of smartly-dressed Search Engine Optimizers and Ad Network hucksters. There was a group of busty women in tank tops that had "Wanna be on top?" written across their chest running around promising to get your site to the top of the search engine results heap and a firm called Blow Search that promised Search as, "swift as the wind" from their "Super-Meta PPC search engine." It seemed like every other booth featured shot glasses as the giveaway-de-jour. Less a conference on how to create carefully-crafted editorial products and more a carnival on how to hoodwink the blinking masses into buying your product.

Not all was lost though. I did meet up with some folks from Nielsen/Netratings that slipped me their latest white paper, The Rules of Engagement, Online Media’s Missing Link, that introduced the subject of audience measurement in this new world of interactive media. Contributors include Rick Bruner, noted blogger, who has semi-retired from his blog in order to focus on his new role at the soon to be acquired DoubleClick.

The point of the paper is that the old metrics of unique visitors and pageviews may no longer apply to the world of blogs where they are seeing a flattening of growth in online visitors but a sharp increase in the number of pages viewed and time spent on a site.

There is little evidence demonstrating that changes in technology translate into changes in human nature. Technologies come and technologies go, but for as long as media has been consumed, engagement has truly been the sine qua non of success. It is precisely because engagement in the online environment is on the rise that the era of "proving" the efficacy of the online medium is over.

We have seen only the tip of the iceberg in audience fragmentation, and we are all in for a long, bumpy ride. Marketers choosing to cling exclusively to traditional media will miss the mark in two critical areas. First, and most obvious, they will miss opportunities to meet today’s customers where they are spending more and more time. But most important, participating in the online environment today will give marketers a deeper appreciation of how changing media preferences will impact their sales tomorrow.

I’m going to see Esther Dyson’s keynote tomorrow. In the meantime, you can read more on Ad:Tech San Francisco on this blog.

Mary Meeker on Online Advertising

Yesterday I visited the Ad-Tech show here in San Francisco to catch the last 20 minutes of Mary Meeker’s keynote and visit the exhibition hall. Let me first say that Mary’s presentation was fascinating but left me winded. We blew past 50 slides dense with stats and tidbits that raised an eyebrow when I first ran across them in my readings over the past several months but now, when gathered up and presented together, are nothing short of inspirational.

My key takeaway was that with broadband penetration now hitting 25 – 30% in North America, we’re going to start to see even greater adoption of the internet as the alternative delivery format for rich media. As more families experience life with an always on connection (I have an iMac in my living room and the little white window has become a hub of activity throughout the day), they begin to view the internet as a viable alternative to existing delivery methods.

Weblogs replace the letter from friends. Topix replaces your local paper. replaces your local TV forecast. RSS feeds replace your local sports wrap-up. The list goes on. Mary’s point was that we’re only just beginning a new adoption phase as it is only when penetration of a new medium hits 25% that the volumes start to make sense for others to follow. Once all these families start hanging out on their always on broadband connections, you’ll see the advertisers follow which will enable more interesting projects which will draw more people online which will draw more advertisers, you get the idea.

More tomorrow on the exhibit hall.