Dispatches From MediaPost: Back to Our Roots

In the last few months, I have often mentioned MediaPost’s plans to start a new how-to magazine about traditional media, and given the current economy, my excitement about the new venture has oftentimes been met with thinly veiled pity, followed by a gentle referral to this or that well-respected psychiatrist. More often than not, however, people asked, “Is that because you think there’s no hope for online media?”

That question is almost understandable, I usually said, considering what happened to most of the online media magazines in the past year, but that’s definitely not the case. We have more faith in the medium now than ever before (because it’s beginning to show real results) and there’s enough to talk about, learn and explore in the online field for many years to come.

The fact of the matter is, there’s simply more to life than the web.

Just to put things in perspective, U.S. online ad spending amounted to about $7 billion last year, which is a sizable chunk of change considering the industry is only six years old. And a fairly recent Fortune magazine survey of ad executives found that most expected online ad dollars to rise 10 to 15 percent in the next year. Nevertheless, compare that to television, cable, radio, magazines, and newspapers—granted, 2001 knocked the totals down significantly, but we’re still talking about more than $200 billion in U.S. offline media ad spending.

Moreover, according to 2001 surveys from Nielsen//NetRatings and Veronis Suhler, the average consumer spends 33 minutes a day surfing the Internet, but devotes 2.8 hours to the radio and a whopping 4.34 hours to television. And Veronis Suhler predicts that by the year 2004, consumers will be watching an average 1,673 hours of television a year and listening to the radio an average of 995 hours, compared to only 187 hours spent surfing the web.

Obviously, the Internet is better at certain things than traditional media. It is by far the most targetable and measurable medium out there. At the same time, we have to remember that the best online brands—the Yahoos and Amazons—didn’t get to where they are today by advertising online. The bottom line is, the Internet, as an advertising medium, would neither be here today nor survive in the future without traditional media. It’s just one piece of a big puzzle, and we’re just beginning to figure out where the web fits in. Now that the VC-driven dot-com e-hype has subsided, the online advertising industry (which to date has been foolishly trying to prove to the world that nothing works better than the web) is forced to admit to that we’re still hugely dependent on the lessons older media can teach.

To quote eMarketer’s Geoff Ramsey, “Consumers live in both a digital and a real world, and advertisers should too.”

Masha Geller is Editor-in-Chief of MediaPost. She may be reached at

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