Earlier this week I read about how the Internet advertising industry continues to grow at an incredible pace. It’s still smaller than traditional channels such as TV and print but while these channels stagnate, the Internet, it seems is growing like the proverbial weed. This will not surprise anyone in marketing. We all know that fewer people are reading newspapers and sitting down to watch the news on TV. Despite this, many in marketing still view the Internet as just one of several important channels. If anything they view traditional channels as still having the edge. Is this because they still spend large percentages of their budgets on big TV ads that we all avoid with our DVRs? Or is it because we view traditional media as the root of content and the Internet as merely a convenient distribution channel? Whatever the reason I’d suggest such thinking is outdated. The Internet is, in my book, now officially king. Youth audiences view the Internet as their primary source of content to the point where they almost ignore traditional forms of media. Even older audiences, thanks to smartphones and tablets, are now turning to the Internet as their first point of content consumption. Think about it. When did you last use a physical newspaper as a real source of news content? Today’s news is real time and completely digital. We simply don’t wait for the printed word anymore. TV still plays a role on major news items like the death of Osama Bin Laden but even there the Internet helps us get deeper perspective and raw content. But the Internet offers more than just content delivery. The Internet has become a fabulous research tool, enabling us to price and quality check products and services in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago. The Internet now handles the sales and support of a large number of products and in some cases has revolutionized whole industries – music, books and video being obvious examples.
All of this shows that the Internet has become an incredibly important channel for businesses, governments and other organizations. But my belief that the Internet is now THE marketing channel is perhaps best illustrated by imagining a day where the Internet was shut down. Just think about how difficult it would be if you could not use the web, email and VOIP? It would be catastrophic for some businesses to lose the Internet for just a day. Imagine if it went away altogether? Replacing the role the Internet plays in commerce is hard to imagine. We now use the Internet to drive so many aspects of our business. Again, though it shocks me that so many people in marketing are not viewing the Internet as king. From where I sit, the Internet is THE marketing channel and the sooner people start putting the Internet first in their marketing plans the better. The disappearance of newspapers would be sad and irritating but we’d survive. Losing cable or satellite TV would in some cases be desirable. I for one could live without Judge Judy and Oprah for a very, very long time. But if you unplug even a portion of the Internet, commerce would grind to a halt and democracy would take a huge blow. So when you next sit down to write that marketing plan on your computer or tablet, make sure the first thing you work on is how to harness the full potential of the Internet. It’s a fabulous place that, while not perfect, quite simply rules.