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Sunday, April 12, 2009

It's About Time

I was recently asked to submit a story to the Internet Oldtimers Foundation's monthly newsletter. I  though I might share it here too.

Larry W. Smith, President/Owner, Live Idea

My long tale starts in 1979 surfing on CompuServe with a Texas Instruments TI99/4A and 300bps Volks modem. Now 30 years later as an Internet Oldtimer Foundation member, I'd like to share a few thoughts about time.

Wikipedia says "Time has been a major subject of religion, philosophy, and science, but defining time in a non-controversial manner applicable to all fields of study has consistently eluded the greatest scholars." Good news, I'm not going there.

Instead, consider 2 components of time that matter to our marketing communications, media, measurement, and advertising revenue ecosystem: the point in time values of persistence and durability, and chronology.

Persistence and durability are clearly demonstrated in print advertising: just buy an antique copy of Colliers or The Plain Dealer to see the editorial and adjacent ad, forever, in perpetuity. However at the Museum of TV & Radio tapes for programs and commercials are separate, until the 1980's when VCRs became affordable and programs were saved by amateurs.

Hop to the Wayback Machine ( and search any top 1996-1998 site with static pages and oops, no ads. Go to any current publishing site and search for an old article, and see a current ad with old content.

Punchline: content has retained its perpetual value through its persistence and durability. But the paid advertising has not survived, it is fleeting and has fled the net. Question: could, would or should the advertising retain its presence? Should an old or new ad be served? What value would accrue to the viewer, advertiser or publisher? Is there a business model and revenue stream?

Chronology is how we grow and age, one second, minute, or hour at a time, in sequence.

But am I the only person frustrated that creation dates are not applied to internet content? For example, the PC World article from the March 2007 magazine gets striped on, not cross referenced on, and not indexed to any popular search sites. Interestingly, dates are a main feature for professional librarian systems like Lexus/Nexus.

As a linear kind of guy who has built on the shoulders of his predecessors, I think the most current and timely may also be the most relevant. Popularity is not a proxy for currency, nor are back links that take time to perpetuate. Time matters in a chronology and should be organized and available that way.

So what are the marketing implications and opportunities? Can publishers sell long-term or multi-generational commitments to serve "in context to content" using new, old or on demand ad messages? (e.g., a John Updike article always connects to the Amazon book page with his signed banner ad).

Do Ad Networks spawn "perpetual servers" which attach to pages and analyze long-term trends for serving that page with a certain ad? (e.g., YouTube video of Coke-Mentos stunt always serves a Pepsi message on weekends).

Can Advertisers and Agencies arbitrage the long-term brand value? (e.g., net present value of dollars over brand life = I'll pay a 20% premium to keep it there forever = PURL or URN ad tags).

Finally, rather than offense advertising (oxymoron? Pun intended!), let's consider value in defensive marketing. How many times have you searched and found old negative comments about your company or clients? The long tail is rewarding the negative comments because of durability over chronology with links not connected in time. Is there an opportunity to serve rebuttal ads in context placements?

And that's all I've got to say about that. Thanks for your time.


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