Bob's Blog

Ooh, Shiny!

We’re a curious lot, us humans. We have to be: if we weren’t, there would be no such thing as progress. Without curiosity and therefore progress, we wouldn’t have fire, wheels, electricity or even – heaven forbid – the internet. We like the new, the shiny, the modern because we like to see how it works and how we can use it. Human nature. Compared with fire, wheels and electricity, the internet is very, very new, and we’re still finding more and more about it and what we can use it for.

Consider this. Pre- Geoffrey Chaucer, story tellers travelled the lands and earned their crusts doing just that, entertaining audiences who had no access to books, as before the printing press, books were hand-written and therefore not really available to anyone other than the ‘elite’. Then along came the printing press, and the story tellers must have thought that they would be redundant. Fast forward a few hundred years, and along came the radio, and the booksellers must have thought that they too would be out of a job: people needn’t read any more, just listen. Then television, so radio folk must have feared the worst. You can see where this is going, I’m sure. Watch the news on the television, and someone is reading it for us, there is your storyteller. The world’s biggest online retailer started off selling books online. Radio advertising revenue is still enjoying healthy growth. You can watch telly and listen to the radio on your phone over the internet. This is what the internet luvvies back in the day referred to as ‘media convergence’.

The internet, in other words, was a huge boulder dropped from a healthy height into the millpond of the established media. Obviously it created a bit of a splash, and the crest of that initial wave was high, followed by what was referred to as the ‘dot com crash’. After the trough caused by worry that the investment community had, effectively, got a bit too carried away, up came the next wave which was referred to as ‘Web 2.0’. (Please feel free to get in touch if anyone out there knew what this meant as I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m still none the wiser). Then the financial crash of 2008, another dip. So to continue with the analogy, the waves and troughs will eventually cancel each other out, and the internet will take its rightful place in that millpond of established media, just not yet as we’re still learning about and finding more things to do with it. Marketing precis: use the internet and all it has to and will offer, but don’t ignore other media, because if they were going anywhere, they’d have gone by now.

For the record, back in the mid-nineties I was buying the media for Cambridgeshire software distributor Unipalm, whose founder had the bright idea of opening the first business ISP which he called the Public Internet Protocol Exchange – too much of a mouthful – so he shortened it to PIPEX. I was there from the start, and have watched it develop along with all the trips and triumphs along the way, so you’ll forgive me if I appear a little cynical now and again.