As someone approaching the Internet from a radio background, I can see interesting parallels in the current crisis in website advertising.
In all the doom and gloom, it’s easy to forget that there are some incredibly popular websites out there. With over 600,000 unique users, I would include one of my own, Rivals.net, among them.
The problem for all of us, however, is persuading advertisers that these fantastic audience numbers are just as valid and viable as those served up by more traditional offline media.
But rather than seeing this as a problem peculiar to the Net, we can learn a lot from the achievements of previous “new media”, such as commercial radio.
Chrysalis, which owns Rivals.net, together with its radio industry peers, has enjoyed considerable economic benefit from commercial radio, moving from two per cent of total ad spend to its current level of six per cent in just ten years.
This has been achieved in no small part by the collective efforts of the radio industry, through its marketing body, the RAB. It managed to prove the cost-effectiveness of radio as an advertising medium (particularly compared with TV).
By subscribing to several generic marketing initiatives, the radio industry has improved accountability and feedback to its customers, including data capture, and universal audience measurement.
This is a crunch year for the Internet. The industry must seek to legitimise itself in front of an increasingly sceptical audience of brand owners and their agencies. It is critically important that sites of all sizes should be able to produce certified quarterly traffic figures, using universal standard definitions.
I believe the first step towards effectively marketing the Internet as a credible advertising medium is the implementation of certain measures without delay:
– Adoption of universally accessible measurement methods and standard definitions;
– Quarterly (or more frequent) independent audits of traffic/user statistics;
– Boycotting by brands of sites without a recognised audit;
– All officially endorsed metrics to be published on site;
– Comprehensive attitudinal research to prove the effectiveness of the medium to advertisers.
I am calling on my industry peers to back a properly funded central organisation with a mandate to validate and market Web-based media to the advertising and sponsorship community.
The IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) is in the best position to take this forward and I would support its efforts to fast-track these initiatives. This is a top priority for website owners as they move to convert proven consumer demand into revenue. It’s a case of together we stand, divided we fall.
Lisa Gordon is chief executive of Chrysalis New Media