Commentary

Time to Begin Again

By Jim Meskauskas

So, is it all over? Is the Internet a lost cause for media, a black hole for advertisers? Were all the early skepticism warranted and the later enthusiasm just "irrational exuberance?" Should all of the still-working dot-com-ers just close up shop and go home? Should advertising agencies liquidate their interactive units and forgo the medium all together? In the infamous words of Jim Morrison, is this "The end of our elaborate plans. The end of everything that stands, the end. No safety or surprise, the end?"

The answer is, of course not. What we are experiencing now, other than some real economic slowdown, is a state of mind on a grand scale finding expression in the press. Sure, there is not as much eager engagement of the online medium as their once was. True, layoffs are the new plague of the Internet industry. But this is hardly a sign that the end is nigh. Motorola lays off thousands of employees but no one declares that cell phones are dead. Maytag lays off thousands, but no one is writing articles declaring the washing machine industry gone forever.

I think there are two reasons why the focus has gone so quickly from one extreme to the other, neither taking into account the Nietzschean aphorism: "One seldom commits one rash act; first one does too much, then one does too little."

1. There is an unspoken anger out there among the "unwashed masses," those consumers of the content now being produced that bad-mouth the Web marketplace, at the Internet and the Web frenzy that took place over the last 18 months. People were made to feel like Luddites if they weren't participating in it and stupid if they weren't getting rich off of it. Finally these masses get on board, either financially or as participants, only to see it crumble about them, "dotcom" now a dirty word. This anger has bred an enthusiasm for "kicking the dog" and good old fashioned schadenfruede. The press is just giving the people what they want, and in so doing, is exonerating them for creating this Tulip Bulb frenzy to begin with.

2. Most of these journalists producing content about this topic are not, nor ever have been, advertising professionals. They are freelance writers who don't always have much in the way of familiarity with our industry. This mediated relationship with subject matter creates the conditions for an ignorance that leads to misleading statements. And ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads into suffering (thanks, Yoda.)

Last week David Smith talked about how what we are currently experiencing in the online and interactive advertising industry isn't the end (https://www.mediapost.com/enews.htm?s=2398). The doom and gloom declarations of the press are really overstatements; a counter-swing to the same pendulum on which the "irrational exuberance" had been riding. What we are really at is simply the end of the beginning. The research and development phase of the Internet as

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