We're Back, Baby

So, are you just back from summer vacation? Did you even take a summer vacation? And, by the way, are you having fun yet? It's fun again ... right?

Only two-plus short years ago a colleague of mine joined MarketWatch, and in an interview with MediaDailyNews, the question was posed: "How's business?" His terse reply was: "I just want this quarter to be over." That one sentence pretty much sums up that dark period of time.

But this has been a pretty heady year for those of us in the business. There have been reports that range between 20 percent to 80 percent growth, depending on who or what your business is. Despite Google's big news, search is NOT the only business driver this year, as many experts had predicted. Display advertising is doing very well, and search is finding its rightful percentages.

In fact, it was about this time last year that there were rumblings of search taking over the world, that display would no longer be needed, and that links could take over all the spots currently occupied by display ads--remember that?! Well, the sky didn't cave in with contextual links, and I'm happy to observe that display ads large enough to brand still occupy the major percentage of advertising space across the pages of our best publishers.



Maybe you can call me biased, but let's objectively look at the year's momentum:

Search: Google and the gaggle of others--okay, I admit it's still amazing, the stock is up again as I write this. Enough said already.

Auctions: eBay is thousands of sellers strong, and the stock performance shows it. (MarketWatch chose Meg Whitman as 2003 CEO of the year).

E-commerce:This week, Forrester announced that U.S. online retail sales will more than double in six years. Amazon, in my opinion, is stronger than the experts claim, covering all the growth categories, and I still think Jeff Bezos is a genius.

Broadband: Finally, the user numbers have grown dramatically, and the resulting streams are now in the upfront. Thanks go to Starcom's Rishad Tobaccowala for pushing the industry on that one.

Behavioral targeting: Far more than just the flavor of the month, Revenue Science and Tacoda are featured in the offerings of more than 75 percent of the publishers and are now a terrific part of the marketing mix.

Associations: The Interactive Advertising Bureau is stronger than ever, and getting a lot done. The Online Publishers Association has really settled in and found its place with terrific studies, events, and white papers. In New York, 212 launched too much fanfare, and has a membership base of well over a thousand people. The group has had numerous events, both social and educational. Here in San Francisco, rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated. We're about to launch our own association next month--BIG (Bay Area Interactive Group).

So, if things are so good and the medium is so solid, then we as an industry must be close to taking a victory lap--right? The IAB claims that we will take more than $9 billion into our interactive coffers. The industry has surpassed outdoor advertising and local radio. We're outpacing all other media growth. You only have to look at the old Grey Lady's revenue statements for quarter two to see where the money is flowing and who has the Mojo. Yes, it's online with all the momentum. We're headed in the right direction though we're far from finished. No victory lap yet, I'm afraid.

But gone are the days of pink-slip parties, burn rates, and dot-com bashing. In their place is a permanent piece of the marketing pie. It's a terrific time to be active and get involved in your local associations. Right now you're in the thick of it and can make a difference. Short years from now, we'll just be another medium. Right now this star is rising again and we must be smart about it, not arrogant as in the past.

But try to remember, it's only media. We're not curing cancer or defining peace treaties. We're building, planning, selling, and creating media. So make sure that before the summer is completely over, you unplug from the e-mail, turn off your cell phone, ignore the BlackBerry, and take your vacations. I've learned the hard way that rest and vacations are not overrated. Hopefully, everyone will get a chance to recharge the batteries and get ready for quarter four. We all have some media share to take, and then maybe we can take that victory lap.

Scot McLernon is executive vice president, sales and marketing, at MarketWatch, Inc.

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