In 1997, Yahoo had just launched free, Web-based e-mail. Two Stanford University students named Larry and Sergey were creating buzz in the academic community with a link analysis tool called BackRub. Domain name “Business.com” sold for a jaw-dropping $150,000.
It was already two and a half years since the first banner ad (for AT&T) ran on Hotwired.com (now Wired.com). In fact, nearly $1 billion was spent on Internet advertising that heady year.
And on April 1, 1997, at 12:01 a.m., ClickZ went live. By the end of the year, nearly 5,000 subscribers received The ClickZ Letter every week via a listserv.
It wasn’t until June 1998 that Microsoft released Windows 98.
Technology marketer Andy Bourland and journalist Ann Handley, ClickZ’s founders, had zero online publishing experience when ClickZ launched. Back then, who did? Andy, who described himself as “starved” for information on online marketing, found the best advice was posted on discussion boards. “What if these guys could put the subject matter they specialized in into play?” he mused. “What if we could hear from people who are just like me, trying to make sense of this business, speaking from their own vantage point?”
So Andy teamed with Ann, rounded up a posse of volunteer writers/practitioners, and set out to do what ClickZ is still working to accomplish today: help interactive marketers to do their jobs better.
It wasn’t long before the publication outgrew Ann’s and Andy’s homes and was big enough for a small staff and an office (meetings were held in a nearby grocery store’s café). By 1999, coverage expanded to include such emerging disciplines as affiliate marketing, media buying, and e-mail marketing. (Original e-mail columnist Kim McPherson worried there wouldn’t be enough to write about on a weekly basis.)
The following year, coverage expanded to include topics such as rich media and online publishing.
And to shorten a long story, Jupitermedia (then internet.com) acquired ClickZ in September 2000. Just after ClickZ’s fourth anniversary, Ann and Andy parted ways with the publication. (In 2005, we changed hands again.)
Growing Up With ClickZ
I must have started reading ClickZ as soon as I became aware of it, back in ’98 or so. Back then, I was doing interactive marketing and branding, and ClickZ was an invaluable resource. I recall how honored I felt when former editor Claudia Bruemmer invited me to critique a banner ad. Back then, banner ad reviews were a big site feature.
Certainly, I never dreamed I’d be running ClickZ (six years and counting) and getting to know the columnists I’d been reading for years. Many have continued to write for us for nearly a decade now, and I now consider more than a few friends.
The Best in Best Practices
We’ve also worked hard to recognize the most important trends in the field. ClickZ produced the first conferences on e-mail marketing that educated marketers about the ethics and legalities of spam (in 2002), and the first-ever conference on blogging (2003).
A particular source of pride is that we’re not only helping marketers meet the challenges of new technologies and tactics but also helping them on a broader level. It’s a real testament to ClickZ’s scrupulous adherence to ethics and best practices (and a source of personal pride) that we were asked to testify at the FTC’s Spam Forum, for example, as well as to brief the Canadian government on online marketing’s upcoming issues.
Then and Now
ClickZ has witnessed a lot of evolution over 10 years: the boom, the bust, and the second boom. (Alas, the bust meant a hosting company went belly-up, and with it much of our early content.) We’ve seen banner ads evolve into video spots, online publishing beget consumer-generated and social media, the rise of search engine marketing, and, in addition to e-mail, new distribution platforms such as RSS.
Mostly, we’ve seen the realization of much of the democratization we both hoped for and expected 10 years ago. We fully anticipated major brands would embrace the Web as a matter of course, and they have. Yet we’ve also seen interactive empower a new generation of marketers who are launching new businesses, new models, new technologies, and new paradigms all the time.
And that’s what makes it so much fun to get up in the morning and think about what ClickZ will cover next.
Let’s begin our next decade by thanking all those who made this one possible: our 400 columnists, past and present (not rounded off — it’s the real number!), to say nothing of our invaluable staff and the most important people of all in our decade-long history: you readers.
Meet Rebecca at Search Engine Strategies April 10-13 at the Hilton New York in New York City.
By Erin Brenner, Copy Chief
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