As the Digital Grim Reaper sharpens his scythe on sport it's time
to reflect on where next for this medium. The shakeout across all
sectors still has some months to run but the smoke is settling from the
burning pyres of dotcoms culled for simply not having a business.
Despite the gloom, I'm optimistic. It's the end of the beginning. We
have entered a phase where rationality has returned to the world and
sanity presides over the growth of those with real-world ambitions and
The days of "if we build it, they will come" are over and have been
replaced with a philosophy of "we will only build it if they are here
already and it pays".
Now the landscape is clearing we need a starting point to retrain the
minds of brand owners and their agencies. We, as an industry, are
growing up, but advertisers and agencies can't follow by osmosis. We
need to help them.
The starting point is a level playing field - transparency. All sites
chasing revenues should publish recognised traffic figures using
standardised metrics. Only 185 UK sites have an ABC Electronic
certificate. This is too low given the myriad that still exist. Are
those that don't publish scared that if brand owners and the media see
up their skirts, then what little revenue they are generating will dry
up? It is this attitude that is crippling the industry.
I challenge every commercial website to get a recognised audit by
September and at least quarterly thereafter. Stop trading on out-of-date
or made up traffic figures. If The Times, ITV or Heart 106.2 didn't
publish their figures would you part with your marketing budget to
advertise within, or sponsor, their content? No you would not.
So why is it different on the internet?
Publish or be damned - those that don't are bringing the medium into
disrepute. Brands and agencies should take note of who is prepared to
put their money where their mouth is. Yes, the landscape is changing and
consolidation across all sectors is bloody - but necessary. The outlook
is bleak only for companies that, despite multi- million pound
investment, fail to manage expectations.
This medium is still growing faster than any other in history and has
critical mass, especially among young upmarket adults. Look upon the end
of the beginning as a positive cleansing experience. Once the shake-out
shudders to a halt, brands will see the real landscape and take
advantage of the opportunities we all know are there.