Web worth more than mere 3.4%

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U.S. advertisers this year will spend a record $9.1 billion on online advertising, according to a new report from eMarketer. So big. Here's a more important figure: The same report shows online's share of U.S. media spending this year will reach a record 3.4%. So small. That percentage must and will grow. But marketers need to define their Internet investment in broader terms than by what they spend on ads.

When the last new medium-TV-came of age, it made sense to define advertisers' stake by ad spending and share of media budget. But the Net is so much more than a major new ad medium. While Web advertising is important, other investments by marketers-most notably a company's own Web site-often are more critical to making strong connections with consumers.

It's easy to lose sight of how far the Web has come in the 13 years since a ban on business use of the Internet was lifted and the 10 years since the first banner ad ran. The revolution will be blogged: 75% of the U.S. population now has Internet access at home, according to NetRatings; 29% of U.S. homes have a broadband connection, says eMarketer. Research from J.D. Power and Associates shows the average monthly broadband bill ($44) approaches the average cable bill ($51).

Consumers value that Internet connection. So do investors: The leading search engine, Google, projects a stock-market worth after its initial public offering of $29 billion to $37 billion-far above the $23 billion value of the leading national advertiser, General Motors.

What's good for Google is good for the nation. Consumers are on the Web, and marketers need to advertise to reach them. That's only a start. There's a more fundamental issue: A marketer should strive for the most effective Web presence in its category-most important, a Web site that exceeds expectations of customers and prospects. Web marketing is more than advertising. It's about using the Internet to build relationships with customers. Build a superior Web presence, and they will come.

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