Thursday, June 11, 2009

Online Publishing Insider: Evolutionary Or Revolutionary?

Evolutionary Or Revolutionary?

Technically speaking, the difference between evolutionary and revolutionary is just one single letter. When speaking of technology, however, the implications of each word are worlds apart. While an evolutionary product is a step forward from where you currently stand, a revolutionary product forges an entirely new path. It is different, bold, and risky -- and also has the potential to be highly rewarding.

There are, of course, inherent risks involved in taking the evolutionary approach as well. An evolutionary product can often be duplicated by a competitor or even surpassed by the next step in the evolutionary time line. When you produce the 7-minute abs workout, for example, the 6-minute abs workout is just around the corner, as Ben Stiller pointed out in "There's Something About Mary."

When Microsoft recently launched Bing, its new search -- I mean, decision -- engine, it was a step forward, but far from revolutionary. In a recent MediaPost Search Insider article, Gord Hotchkiss took a deeper look into Bing's evolutionary advances, but also lamented that there was nothing truly revolutionary about it. Alternatively, Google took a revolutionary leap with the announcement of its new Wave technology. While Microsoft was hard at work plotting the next step in the evolution of search, Google chose to throw away the drawing board instead of simply going back to it. Rather than reinvent search, the company took a bold new path to revolutionizing the way we communicate online.

As I pondered these product launches from Google and Microsoft and their respective approaches, I applied the same filter to the online advertising arena. While the evolution in online advertising continues, we seem to be falling short when it comes to revolutionary ideas.

The display ad unit has evolved in size options, creative content and targeting capabilities. We've continued to see the emergence of unique variations on the display ad unit, like the advertising embedded photos from Pixazza, the social media ad unit that Digg recently announced, and a new entry from Premium Access Media (full disclsoure: this is a PV Media Group company) called the Anchor Ad, among others. While the evolution of online advertising is significant, has there been anything truly revolutionary in our industry over the past year? Two years? Three years? Looking back, the last really revolutionary advertising vehicle online was the launch of paid search, and that hasn't changed dramatically since its inception.

For online advertising to continue to grow and potentially overtake traditional media as the medium of choice for both brand and direct response advertisers, do we need another revolutionary idea -- or can we continue to move forward along the evolutionary time line? Is there a new social media advertising model out there just waiting to burst on the scene? Will video sites like Hulu and YouTube be able to create a new standard to successfully monetize both professional and user-generated video content? Is there another team of geniuses like Google's Lars and Jens Rasmussen hidden away in a back office somewhere, developing the next "wave" of online advertising solutions that will lead our industry into the Web 3.0 world?

If I had the answers to these questions I most likely wouldn't be spending my time writing a column that referenced the cinematic genius of Ben Stiller in "There's Something About Mary," which is why I prefer to turn the tables and solicit your expert opinions. Where do you think we are headed? What's the next big idea that is waiting to be discovered online advertising?

Kory Kredit is vice president of marketing at PV Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at

Online Publishing Insider for Thursday, June 11, 2009:

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