The Web is Dead…Again

by Doug Weaver on August 26, 2010 at 1:35PM

The Web as we know it is over….time to throw away your browser and calmly evacuate via the nearest lighted exit.  There’s a new game in town and you don’t want to be the last clueless executive betting on the web as an advertising and marketing medium.  So sayeth Wired Magazine….in 1997.

Did you think I was talking about current Wired Editor Chris (“The Long Tail”) Anderson’s pronouncement last week about the demise of the Web?  No, the original “Web is Dead” story happened way back in March 1997 in issue 5.03.  The cover story celebrated “Push” and featured the sub-headline “Kiss Your Browser Goodbye: the Radical Future of Media Beyond the Web.”  This radical future would be ushered in by — “broader and deeper new interfaces for electronic media: BackWeb and PointCast.” Or maybe not so much.

Big sweeping pronouncements make for great magazine covers (and in Chris Anderson’s case a veritable cottage industry of book deals and sweet public appearance fees), but they’re just terrible planning tools. In the latest Wired obituary, applications are the hot young widow in the black dress dabbing her eyes beside web’s coffin. Anderson and Wired seem entirely smitten with a future dominated by the iPad and other highly-controlled (and largely paid) channels and devices that live outside the formal boundaries of the web.  But while this heavy breathing may be good for Wired and the content publishing business model, to the rest of us it’s a somewhat distracting tulip craze.

For me, the true future of digital media and marketing is far less sensational, but far more promising.  The future is all about “and.”  We’ll be navigating and building on a world that’s filled with web pages and apps and social media communities and video and…..  Wired (for whom I worked in 1994-95) is tossing us a red herring in saying that all the meaningful financial action will shift into applications and closed environments.  It’s a false choice.

When I look at the future role of the ad agency and the media sales organization, I see a focus on integration of widely disparate and channels.  It’s going to be messy and impressionistic.  It’s not going to fit into a pretty little box.  Even if that box has an Apple logo on it.

Think I’ve got it wrong?  Have a POV of your own.  Add your comments below.

Reader Comments (12)

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  1. Dave Schoonover August 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Great job pulling out the 1997 story. An evolutional shift is certainly occurring, but it’s not going to occur in cataclysmic fashion. When 4G hits critical mass, it’ll certainly help accelerate a migration to mobile devices for content, but apps do not and will not meet all the needs of a user that the web can provide for in terms of flexibilty and discovery. Roles and uses will change and evolve, but there will still now and in the future continue to be a need for the web.

    Now I need to go and see what Mr. Anderson has said about cloud computing…

    Dave Schoonover
    Head of Digital Marketing
    Kia Motors America, Inc.

  2. Dean Lucente August 26, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Amen brother! The future of Marketing, digital or otherwise will be all about how to get to the consumer, the user, the influencer, the buyer, the watcher, etc. and all their friends in a meaningful way that is integrated and seamless. We need to think well beyond traditional formats and really think of “AND” not to mention “WHY”.
    Way to go Doug!

  3. matt August 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Maybe the web will eventially fall prey to apps and closed models. But the last people I listen to today are “hold on to what I can” print editiors. And I’ll assure you this, Wired Magazine in printed form will long go way of the dodo bird, before the internet does.

  4. Fergus O'Daly August 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I have been a reader forever , well, since you launched The Drift.

    Your take on Wired “The Web Is Dead ” is correct. This cover head line might be more of a reason why Wired is getting dead. Fergus

  5. Dave Albert August 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    This is also from the same magazine who declared (last year I believe) that blogging was also essentially dead, and there was no point of starting a blog nowadays as the gold rush was over. I completely agree it’s never a good idea to speak in absolutes. It’s a big world and a big Web, and closed environments are only part of the future.

  6. Bruce Leigh August 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    If the box of the future is going to have an Apple or Sky or logo on it, then the it is going to be about “and”… as in: This is our box _and_ you can’t put content on it or do anything with it unless we say so. I’d like to beleive in a more open _and_ inclusive future, but the recent laws regarding digital content (especially in the UK) make that less likely not more.
    Apple has comprehensively demonstrated that a single company can define and control an environment, just look at how they’ve sidelined Adobe and Flash.
    Should it be Apple who says if your ad can run on their device? Or the the client that’s paying for the ad? At the moment it’s Apple and that’s not only wrong, it’s stupid.

  7. Alan Schulman August 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Right on Doug! “and” is the reality of all app development shops
    ours… Will we be able to afford all the different programmers necessary? Only time will tell… Until then,
    WIRED might want to start developing their own apps
    instead of outsourcing to Adobe and Apples SDK…
    Then perhaps they might get a reality check :-)

  8. David Stetson August 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I remember Pointcast – what a cool idea – until it was shut out by our IT Department as a bandwidth hog.

    Twelve years later we think nothing about sneaking in an entire world cup match via slingox on our iPhones, while simultaneously tweeting about outrageous calls by referees.

  9. scot August 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

    well said Reverend Weaver, no disagreement, just one more question – what content creator or media publisher aggregates all the “ands” to build scale, reach and targeting? AND what agency has the capability to think in a way that can make that buy AND understand AND measure what they’re buying both pre AND post?

  10. Doug Weaver August 31, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Great point Scot. The short answer is ‘very few of either,’ which some will see as a problem but I see as an opportunity. The role of ‘re-aggregating’ these many disparate elements into coherent, strategic ‘plays’ for the marketer is up for grabs. Currently many of us are yoked to a status quo that’s built from the agency- and publishing-business out. Everyone stays in their respective silos. In a future where those silos get increasingly automated and drained of people, I’d want to be in the strategic role of re-aggregator. I heard it said recently that the worst way to predict the future was to iterate off the present. I think that’s true here.


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