Depending on how we interpret and tally the notches on our belt or loops around the proverbial block, some of us will say we've been in digital, by one definition or another, from 10 to 16 to
27 years. We all geek-out on keeping track.
Original credentials may involve:
- Getting in on, riding out, and prevailing through the rise and fall and re-rise of the Internet ad economy.
- Stepping onto the founding floor of search.
- Time spent as a stalwart leader on the frontlines of consumer data, targeting, communications, and privacy concerns.
- Life as an early zealot of mobile, video or advergaming, as an enabler or seller of products and services.
- Participation in the upstart of ISPs and consumer online services (Prodigy, CompuServe, AOL).
- Time spent in the notorious browser wars.
- Developing product in the CD-ROM space or other trenches of new media in the '80s and '90s.
- Being a part of the first interactive agencies for Web design, e-commerce consulting, Internet advertising services.
- Way back when, rubbing elbows in the '60s around ARPANET, the world's first operational packet-switching network, born to sustain communication between computers and strengthen networks, as the U.S. sought to prevail over Russia in global tech leadership! These people are serious digital frontier elders.
In any case, no matter how we map it, we can all align around beacons. There are certain things that we are all glad have happened. These are signs of progress not limited to the groundbreaking stuff, but have also marked the way.
In the life and times of the digerati, we consider some welcome signs of aging:
1. Recognition of the consumer as far more than the sum of his or her demographic data points. There is small but pivotal wisdom in this shift of mindset, knowing that straight demographics are not enough intelligence -- that it is truly consumer attitudes, demand, influence and driving insights that we must attend to as marketers.
2. The steady uptick in high-speed adoption trends becoming no great shakes. Where the gains on this stat used to be a dramatic point of conversation, we all now acknowledge high speed as practically the default U.S. household position.
3. An open perspective on the number of screens adorning the media consumer's life. If not three or four, then at least two screens, fully utilized. Now we see basic mobility as a way of life rather than an early-adopter club.
4. The search marketplace entering its next phase of growing up, right before our eyes. Having gone from the early seedlings and practices of SEO in the '90s, to the booming of the paid search marketplace in the early 2000s, onward to a fully inhabited industry ecosystem of its own over the past five years -- we now see search playing more actively and willingly in the conversation on integrated marketing. The gurus are mingling again.
5. Social media getting modern legs. Building on the precursors of list servs, message boards and chat rooms, more robust social networks, Web 2.0 and mobility have helped transport this industry area to a better version of itself.
6. Rich media is finally writing checks it can cash. With the eschewing of simple flash and its no longer being considered "rich" -- and the market waking up, and more steadily embracing IAB standards for what constitutes rich -- the best media & creative is just, better. We are figuring out how to put creative to work for interaction, engagement, data input and more. Rich media is earning its keep.
7. Softening of the reign of the big studios. Within the evolving video marketplace, it's been great to see an opening up. Branded entertainment is redefining itself; video content production and distribution options are increasing; there's exciting deal-making on all fronts. The whole marketplace now actively involves more interests, and this inclusiveness is better for progress.
8. Our having a beat on transparency. This encompasses everything from the galaxy of activity around self-regulation, to media companies adopting more transparent standards, to the movement for verification. The ground is swelling here.
The list goes on. There is much to celebrate and much to heed. But at a time when there's so much to say about where we've been and where we are going, our signs of aging are a sum positive. Borrowing a thought from Naomi Wolf about aging, we might say that the wrinkles around our eyes are a map to the life we've lived -- all frowns and smiles included.