Apres le Deluge

Today Jupiter Communications begins its first amid-the-flood online advertising forum.

Today’s events are listed as the “Pre-Conference.” The real business gets going on Wednesday.

A lot has changed since the last time the industry got together at San Francisco’s @d:tech show. Back then, the main theme I detected was denial – denial that the boom’s death was permanent and denial that it affected them. You might even call this a Kubler-Ross summer for the e-tailing industry.

I expect to see a lot more acceptance this week. The evidence is simply overwhelming. The latest piece of evidence, if more were needed, is the merger of Koz.com and Internet Tradeline. It’s another of those one-plus-one-equals-one deals, greased by an additional $16.2 million in venture capital funding.

The folks at Jupiter should understand this well. They engaged in such a merger themselves recently, with Media Metrix.

The sad truth this industry must face this week is that there are fewer customers, and those who are left have a different attitude. There will be fewer tchotchkes and smaller parties. Topics of conversation will switch from who just got rich to who just went broke. Stock charts that used to look like mountain ranges now look more like Nixon’s nose.

Those of us who saw this coming take no joy in it. I lost my first market of the flood just last week when Intellectual Capital, a Washington-based opinion journal, suddenly announced it was closing. My editor is off to the Kennedy School of Government. The boss, Pete du Pont, will no doubt land on his feet he would have looked great on that Philadelphia platform in place of Dick Cheney by the way.

When the money dries up, the fact is that good as well as bad businesses are left high and dry. But the times of trouble have their uses. The good people do land on their feet. The morons, on the other hand, go down for the count.

So if you’re here, if your job is secure, and if you’ve still got some stock options that aren’t under water, chances are you have a clue. You’ve won the game; you get the prize. The prize? You get a chance to play again.

There’s an awesome amount of unfinished business in this space. We still don’t agree on how to count banners. We still don’t have real standards for them. We still haven’t settled on whether to pay cost per thousand (CPM) or pay for performance. We still haven’t decided whether they work at all, or whether something else needs to replace them. We still don’t know where email fits in, and we still haven’t agreed on the definition of spam.

These are just a few questions on which I’m looking for guidance this week. The answers still change from month to month, and the pace of change is still exhilarating. But we’ve shaken out the fools. Let’s get to work.

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