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Most Internet pros had some sense that the dot-com boom of 1998 to 2000 was a bubble, but few could see how profoundly its popping would impact their companies. We all found out fast enough. But even the dot-com bust did not quell the optimistic promise of the Internet or stifle its evolution. While innumerable areas were impacted, there are three major changes that occurred over the last five years that have had profound effects on online marketing and advertising.

Separation to absorption

The famous 1994 AT&T Corp. "You Will" ad on marked the beginnings of banner advertising and the promise of a separate and distinct marketing channel. Over time, the Internet has taken on aspects of other media; TV, radio, newspapers, direct mail and telemarketing are all in various stages of absorption by the Internet, which also caused transformations in original media as well.

For example, TV-like rich media ads are now commonplace on a multitude of sites, and TV shows such as "The Apprentice" integrate online components as a necessary part of their programming. (Don't even get me started on podcasting and blogs.) The increasing penetration of broadband has not only made these things possible but profitable.

This transformation has also created new or modified existing delivery channels. Our advertising customers no longer only ask, "Whom do I target?" They also ask, "What is the best way to reach them?" These emerging communication channels include the "one-to-few" model of targeted banner campaigns or search engine keyword buys, the "many-to-many" model of online forums and the "one-to-one" model of personal e-mails or live chat. All of these styles are largely derived from other media and were radically transformed by the distribution channel of the Internet. The key is that they all will continue to intermingle and coexist.

Directories to keywords

In the beginning, Yahoo! was simply "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web." What Jerry Yang and David Filo intuitively understood was that as the Web grew, information would become harder to find. What they didn't anticipate was that the rapid growth would quickly make their directories obsolete as people began searching more for relevant information than cool content.

Enter search engines. Delivering information and content based on relevant keyword searches was a triumph for consumers and advertisers alike. Numerous search engines and an entire industry devoted to matching advertisements and content with keywords has emerged.

Our own 24/7 Search group can now manage hundreds of thousands of keywords across all the major search engines simultaneously, a feat that would have been impossible four or five years ago. This ability to scale keyword campaigns creates a consistent ad model that applies to both consumer advertisers and b-to-b advertisers of any size.

Spend to ROI

The dot-com bust made everyone more conscious of how much money was being spent on online marketing. In 2000, budgets were slashed as a means for survival. But by 2003, this cost-cutting mentality shifted to an ROI mentality. The accountability of the Net, combined with the increasing sophistication of analytics tools, resulted in a greater transparency of the "cost of spend" to "effect on revenue" ratio and a fundamental shift in the relationships between ad buyers, sellers and their agents.

Now marketers, content publishers and e-commerce players have metrics that tell them the exact benefits of $1 spent online to any specific area of their business. We've learned that marketers are more willing to increase spending when the analysis tells them each dollar spent would result in $2.50 in revenue. As the old saying goes, they can't afford not to spend the money.

What's next? The Net will continue to absorb and transform other media, drive better targeting of messages and understanding of prospects and customers. I trust we will all learn from the lessons of the past and remain realistic about the rate of change. So, when change inevitably happens, the effects will not overshadow the great benefits to companies and consumers. The changes seen in the last several years only hint at the great changes to come.

David Moore is CEO at 24/7 Real Media. He can be reached at [email protected]

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