Wired’s fascinating September cover story proclaims that the web is dead, but lo, the Internet is alive and well. Internet users are just increasingly shunning their browsers for apps, shifting the way online content is consumed and likely how advertisers approach consumers.
Freemium services are increasingly winning the day, Editor in Chief Chris Anderson suggests, as limited free content successfully drives subscription revenue. Rather than wade through the morass of the web — and the increasingly dangerous realm of malware — consumers will pay for the convenience of an app on a rich media platform such as a smartphone or tablet, devices for which browsers have proven lacking.
“If a standard Web browser can act like an app, offering the sort of clean interface and seamless interactivity that iPad users want, perhaps users will resist the trend to the paid, closed, and proprietary,” Anderson suggests.
But Contributing Editor (and Newser founder) Michael Wolff uses Russian Internet financier Yuri Milner, who has bought 10% of Facebook over the last year, to illustrate how traditional media attitudes are taking over new media. He notes that according to Compete, the top 10 websites take up 75% of U.S. pageviews now compared to 31% in 2001.
“If we’re moving away from the open Web, it’s at least in part because of the rising dominance of businesspeople more inclined to think in the all-or-nothing terms of traditional media than in the come-one-come-all collectivist utopianism of the Web,” Wolff writes. “The control the Web took from the vertically integrated, top-down media world can, with a little rethinking of the nature and the use of the Internet, be taken back.”
Wolff makes a good argument that the lack of a good web advertising solution has become a burden on browsing — the banner has long been a joke with pathetic CTR, which is why CPMs keep traveling downward.
But this advertising model has encouraged a glut of content, most of it cheaply produced (Wolff fingers Demand Media, which Wired has no love for). I agree that Internet journalists/publishers mainly seem to serve as content engines — churning out as much stuff as possible for advertisers to put up banners against.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg can be viewed as old-school media moguls because they have embraced media and fenced it off, Wolff suggests, while Google has tried to unrestrained by it. Openness inspires innovation, as we’ve seen through the Internet’s adolescence, while walled gardens garner profits — something that publishers and advertisers alike are now demanding.
Which is why advertising as app within app is growing in popularity — the trail mapped out by the iAd (even if its execution has been a bit lacking) has been copied by many others. These ads are easily entered and exited resources within premium content.
The world of apps is reminiscent of cable television — a bevy of channels to choose from where the programming may be picked out, but the content tends to be of a higher level.
In other words, with the prevalence of mobile, apps and closed systems working off Internet, the Wired guys make a case that interactive (mobile and online) publishing is shifting to resemble traditional media. The open web will still be there as a research tool, a place for sharing art and ideas. Thus the interactive marketing world needs to make a big adjustment.
The crux of this argument, however, seems to be consumer willingness to pay for content, something that is assumed with the users adopting the convenience of mobile Internet . As someone who has paid for one app (a guitar tuner), I’m not buying it yet. Then again, I am cheap — just like crime, Internet journalism doesn’t pay.
Also, as an interesting counterpoint to the graph at the beginning in the Wired story, check out this BoingBoing post as representing Internet traffic as well as the growth in Internet usage.