Web Money from the 90’s

 

Around this time of year, in Feb 2000, I was doing my best to sell the idea of on-line advertising to anyone who would listen to me.

We were a month into our successful IPO, we had a top 50 Australian website, number 1 in its category, and cashed up bunch of nerds who thought we knew what was going on, and that we knew what we were doing.

Everything was happening so quickly that every strategy seemed necessary to manage as it was happening.

With hindsight, we understand the impact the Internet has had on the world, back then it was happening for the first time and in real time.

One of the ideas we sold our Investors on was the potential of on line advertising for unique content creators.

What made me think of this today was reading an article from #Rueters on #Facebook regarding #Google generating $US22.4 Billion dollars in on line ad revenue for one quarter.

It occurred to me that this is a lot of money for an industry that did not exist for half my life.

On Line advertising, even in the 90’s made sense me.  Do more for less and better.

With my zero experience in the advertising world, I was reading everything i could get my hands on and working with people whom I thought knew more than most.

The smartest people I knew were telling me the strategy of selling banner ads on our highly trafficked website would start making money.

We could produce advertising space on the website visited by by circa 15 thousand investors a day for next nothing.  It was easy to set up and manage, all we needed to do was sell it.  What could go wrong?

What I didn’t think about at the time was all the people who were already making money advertising in older mediums, such as print or broadcasting.

There was a whole economy based around things staying as they were.

Every time I spoke to a business I was learning how they did all their advertising through an agency and the agencies always wanted their cut.

Today we deal in a percentages of a cent if necessary to charge for on line advertising.  Back then there were few tools to work with for the agencies and they were trying to protect their positions.

The bottom line was that it was slow movement to new media, well slow if you are living in a quarter to quarter start up.     So much was  happening so quickly, it made no sense to me that on line ads weren’t being picked up faster.

Because we would rotate adds every 20 seconds if wanted to, we could produce endless inventory.

All the agencies combined couldn’t sell it the way there were trying to do back then.  There had to be a better way.

Today buying on line advertising, particularly via Google or Facebook, and it is pretty straight forward.  It is cheap, compared to what you could buy before online ads, and it is measurable.

So there we were at peak of the tech bubble with a perfect product, offering huge profits, with very few buyers and some commentators calling it all BS.

One thing I was clear about, having no adverts on our website wasn’t a good look.  I asked our banner provider at the time what our options were and they suggested fillers, like Red Cross, Greenpeace, and World Vision.

We ended up selling the company in the same year and I  never got to play out the online ad game.

I did however get to endlessly promote all my favourite socially important institutions for about 12 months to about 50,000 active stock traders, which in hindsight was a great out come.

About the photo.     Circa 10:15am, Dec 22, 1999, the moment I realised we had successfully listed on the ASX.  2 minutes before this picture was the fist time since I started I thought, “what if nobody buys our stock?”     The photo was courtesy of the AFR, who after taking some more conservative photos, I asked if I could get one for myself with my sunglasses on in front of the exchange board.  Guess which one turned up in the paper, which I now think is great.

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