Digital Issue Editor's Letter

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Ad Age is hardly alone in trying to help you navigate this digital world of ours. There are literally thousands of other insightful sources today and anyone taking this digital revolution seriously will be drawing on dozens of them. Where we differ from many of the others is that we don't cover technology for technology's sake. Ad Age wants to find and help you understand the digital tools, techniques and cultural phenomena that are making, or will make, a difference for marketers, agencies and media owners. It has to have real applicability, and preferably a business model, to get us excited.

That mission is the underpinning of this, our second-annual Digital Issue. Our Digital A-List winners, for example, were not necessarily selected because they are on the bleeding edge -- although some of them certainly are -- they were selected because they are pointing the way to marketing success in a digital world.

We have two agencies in AKQA and R/GA that have gone from being a nice-to-have additional resource in clients' minds to being, for a growing band of marketers, the most important business partner they have. We have a creative campaign in TBWA/Media Arts Lab's synched banners for Apple that proves that those little rectangles in web pages don't have to be a click-focused commodity, but can instead be a superb branding tool that can command better prices. And we have marketers such as Walmart -- rapidly becoming a smart social-media player -- and Bank of America, which is harnessing mobile to grow its business and create loyal advocates of its customers.

And before you say it, yes, we know Twitter and Facebook have yet to prove themselves as businesses in the sense of good, old revenue and profit. But there is a growing band of brands for whom these platforms are changing the way they converse with their customers. These social-media applications are already powerful marketing tools -- and if their current owner-operators can't figure out how to monetize that, someone else will (clue: it ain't about advertising).

This issue also tries to tackle some of the big questions of the day. We have Jimmy Wales and Andrea Weckerle on the broadcast potential of user-generated content; Reprise Media's Peter Hershberg guiding you through the addition of social filters to search; and Ad Age's Michael Learmonth and Nat Ives looking at how journalism is evolving in a world of aggregators. And our digital editor, Abbey Klaassen, somehow found time, in between masterminding this issue and our coming Digital Conference, to ask whether social media is more than an echo chamber when it comes to listening to consumers.

Finally, like last year, we have a "Your Questions Answered" section. We hope it's a simple, accessible way of getting everyone in the marketing and media business up-to-speed on the key issues.

Next week we'll be back to reporting on a broad range of strategies and tactics for tackling the recession. But for this issue, we make no apology for looking beyond the bear market to some of the most exciting things happening today. We hope you find it useful and inspiring.

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