It Talks, It Walks: What The Web Will Look Like

No one can deny that convergence is on the horizon. Many large corporations are already pushing the online envelope, establishing web sites and advertising that incorporate real audio and video to mimic the capabilities of television and radio. Every new technical advance is a move in this direction, toward producing events like the Super Bowl or the Grammy’s live online.

Large advertisers are going to be just as interested in advertising within online broadcasts, as they are doing now on TV and radio. They will want to create streaming video commercials that are just as impressive as those that they produce for traditional television spots. The advertiser’s dream of a full-screen branding commercial that allows interactivity and immediate access to a direct sales platform is coming quickly.

Of course, improvements in multimedia will not be limited to online advertisements. In fact, convergence will have its biggest impact in making content more appealing. Until video and audio is equally as good on the web as it is on TV, most people will choose to watch major broadcast events from the comfort of their couches.

But the appeal of the web quickly grows with its interactive capabilities. Many users will be persuaded by the ability to instantly check any statistic, or view replays at will.

Not All Things To All People

As exciting as the idea of convergence is, it is important to remember that this trend will not be all-inclusive, and not every site will end up looking like TV on steroids. The web has carved out a niche where anyone can publish a site and provide quality information to a huge audience. This differentiates it from practically all other forms of media, and is the main reason that web sites are proliferating so quickly.

There will always exist individuals and groups with hobbies and passions that are not being covered by the media giants. These individuals will want to share their thoughts and ideas, and others will surely be interested in what they have to say. These publishers will be able to succeed because of the low cost associated with designing a site, and the subsequent ease of implementing it.

Some of the sites they’ll create will look sharp and be easy to navigate, others will look like they were designed by someone who had barely figured out how to use Microsoft’s Front Page. This doesn’t matter. The fact is that there will be those who are after the information that these sites provide, and they will not be the least bit bothered that the site does not provide rich media, real video or real audio.

What will prevent convergence from becoming all-inclusive is the fact that it will require expensive equipment and production technology that not every publisher will have. Not every professor, music lover, or entrepreneur will have the resources, time, or knowledge to create a true multimedia experience. As a result, many sites will still remain relatively static, with a magazine or newspaper feel, and the coming of convergence won’t render these sites obsolete.

And What About Banners?

By the same token, while technological advances bring closer the dream of online video commercials, more traditional forms of web advertising will still survive. Opt-in targeted email, buttons and banners will continue to provide a valuable way to promote a product, service or web site.

The advent of TV diminished the importance of radio as an advertising vehicle, but it did not eliminate it. The coming of convergence will diminish the importance of the relatively static site and advertisement, but it won’t eliminate it. So don’t be surprised when, ten years from now, you are surfing the web, going between re-runs of your favorite childhood TV shows, and you spy a lonely banner that captures your attention.

Not every online ad can be a video and have streaming audio. Not everyone will want to have their web surfing experience interrupted by an online commercial every tenth click. Not everyone will want to be researching a topic and suddenly hear an ad played as they read. So don’t be shocked when less intrusive online advertising, like the banner, survive the coming of convergence.

Convergence is already happening, and even online veterans will continue to be surprised by the ever-expanding experiences the Net makes possible. But this won’t mean the end of Mary’s Art History web site, full of text and static images, or the banner sitting at the top of the page.

As long as Mary continues to provide relevant information useful to a larger group of people, there’s a place for her on the web, and as long as the banner continues to provide value as an advertising vehicle, it will survive.

So expect convergence and be ready for all the splendor it will bring. But don’t forget that when it all unfolds, the attributes of the web will have just as big an impact on the final product as TV or radio.

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