Why Web spend is still behind TV

I’ve overheard a number of my colleagues whining over the lack of Internet media spending, given that 80% of the population is on the Web and spend considerable time there. According to Forrester Research, 9.5 hours are spent online while 12.7 hours are spent watching television. However, eMar­keter finds the disparity in total media dollars spent is greater, with 6.6% spent online and 65.2% spent on TV.

The reason these numbers are not more reflective — and will never be — is “media dollars spent” is a 1.0 business metric. It’s still about paying cash for “eyeballs.” Iknow there are those who will argue that performance priced media like paid search are different. My response is that while we pay for clicks or leads, we still bid to get in the top three positions or above the fold, don’t we? We might not be technically paying for an impres­sion, but we are trying to make one. It’s no different than paying more for a Super Bowl commercial in the first quarter of the game, than we pay for one in the fourth quarter.

Today’s Web usage is about connecting, transacting, community, exhibition, generating and sharing content. None of these activities are paid media. These behaviors are what many refer to as “earned” media. If you want to be a part of any of the above interactions, you must “earn” your place by offering unique content, information, insight or access.

Our role as agents for our clients is not to message to consumers, it is to engage them and enable positive behavior with our cli­ents’ products or services. Thus, we change from communications providers, to consumer enablement providers. We provide consumers access to the content they desire and enable them to share it with others, providing tools to facilitate new content creation and widgets to easily access and distribute what they wish. If we look at this activity for Generation X and Y consumers, not to mention even younger teens, it dwarfs any media interac­tion and will continue to grow as mobile broadband expands globally.

If we will change our behavior to focus on consumer enablement, not media and messages sent, consumers will interact with our clients and reward their businesses with continued growth. And isn’t that what we all get paid to do?

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