Online confidence is spreading

As online ad spend rises, marketeers are gaining confidence that the medium is here to stay. That's good news for everyone.

Confidence in online advertising is growing, according to research due out today from Microsoft's Internet arm, MSN. Similarly, the latest six-monthly update from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Internet Advertising Bureau shows that online advertising in the UK is likely to overtake radio next year, having already put cinema in the dark.

There's a long way to go -- if you're on broadband you could easily be spending more time online than you do watching the telly, and it'll be a long time before advertising spend reflects that -- but it all boils down to some long-overdue good news for the whole industry.

In the grand eco-system of the tech industry, this means many things: it means more demand for online page views, which means more content, which means more servers and infrastructure. It means that online business as a whole has become established: unlike any other media it's fully interactive -- if your customers are there, you need to be there too no matter where you put your adverts. It's also good for online publishers such as ZDNet UK: in the interests of full disclosure, this is how we make our living.

MSN's research reveals that more than eight out of 10 brand managers intend to increase, or at the very least maintain, their current level of investment in online. The reason, they say, is that they have a better understanding of the value of online advertising.

It's about time.

A couple of years ago when the Internet was still in the dog house, advertising agencies were nervous about putting their pounds there. Who could blame them? Buying space in old media was easily justifiable to the client who, in turn, found it easy to justify to his or her boss, and so on up the line. It was a self-perpetuating conspiracy of complacency. It wasn't hurt by the uncontrolled excesses online during the late 90s when eyeballs and barter deals were everything, and nobody bothered much about actual revenue or accountability because, well, there was always that venture capital, wasn't there?

All of a sudden there wasn't the venture capital and everythng ground to a halt in 2000 -- and the conservatives looked justified. Now, it's old media that's looking shaky. The new has survived the worst, is stronger than ever and is not going away. The change has been aided by the realisation among agencies and their clients that online advertising is not all about costs per thousand views, but that there are more subtle ways of measuring the effectiveness of campaigns.

It has been aided by the fact that every year people are spending more time online; by the fact that the standardisation of advertising products (and measurement of the same) is catching on; and by the fact that marketeers are gaining confidence in using online.

Just as a boom in cinema audiences benefits the whole of Bollywood and Hollywood, and doesn't stop at the cashier's desk, the rise of real, accountable online advertising will send ripples throughout the tech industry. After all, it's part of the establishment now.