New Media’s New Role

As a New Yorker, I’m finding it tremendously difficult to concentrate on anything related to Internet advertising this week. But like many in the online advertising industry, I’ve been setting aside personal sorrows and fears to keep client ad campaigns running as smoothly as possible. While the world wrestles with thousands of questions surrounding the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., my office is doing its best to return to a state of normal operation. It isn’t easy.

I don’t have any tips for you this week on how to cut the best deal with your favorite Internet portal. I’m not up for a discussion on rich media. I can’t bring myself to write a dozen paragraphs on ad serving. I’m simply paralyzed with sorrow for the families of those who lost their lives as a result of the hijackings and terrorist attacks on the U.S. I’m also fearful for the future and find myself asking, “What now?”

I imagine many of you feel the same way.

As I write this week’s installment, my only thoughts surrounding new media and the Internet are the ways that they have brought people together and facilitated communication in this time of crisis. I’m grateful that circumstances have made me a child of the Internet and that adoption of new technologies has helped me through this crisis of the past several days.

  • It was a call placed from my wireless phone on Tuesday morning that helped me ascertain that my younger sister, who lives down the street from me in Manhattan, was OK.
  • Another call eased my fears about my sister’s fiancé, who worked mere blocks from the World Trade Center (WTC) and who made it home safely, albeit covered with debris.
  • The email list my friend set up made it possible for me to determine that all my close college friends who worked near the WTC and the Pentagon were unharmed.
  • With phone circuits jammed, the only way for me to let my parents and relatives know that I was safe and unharmed was via a mass email, which took the place of about two dozen phone calls.
  • A Web page set up by my alma mater allowed me to check in with those in the Washington and Lee University community who were concerned about my safety and to get information about classmates who worked at the WTC and the Pentagon.
  • Several Web sites have connected me to reputable news sources, allowing me to learn about what is happening and form intelligent opinions on what should be done to combat terrorism and what we can do to preserve our way of life.
  • Web-based message boards and Usenet have helped me to express my feelings on the situation and gauge the opinions of my fellow Americans and others living around the world.
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and instant messaging have helped me to disseminate news on loved ones, discuss the issues surrounding the attacks, and communicate in real time with others around the world about their friends and families.

I become uneasy when I think about how much worse things would have been had I not had access to new media technology on Tuesday. If I hadn’t been able to reach my sister with my wireless phone that morning, I surely would have panicked. If my parents hadn’t received my email, they would have done the same. Without the Web and the Internet, I would still be making phone calls to inquire about the safety of friends and loved ones.

Maybe you used the Internet to donate money to the Red Cross this past week. Maybe you posted the photograph of a missing person to a message board or a news Web site. Perhaps you learned from an email that WTC volunteers needed nonperishable food, clothing, and other articles and acted accordingly. When you did these things, you utilized one or more new channels of communication — new media that bring people closer together than they’ve ever been before.

If there is one thing that will motivate me to keep working hard in the wake of Tuesday’s tragedies, it is the knowledge that I’m working to support emerging media — media that continue to bring people closer together, that give us new ways to gather and process vital information, that allow us to communicate in ways that were completely unfeasible 20 years ago.

In closing, I’d like to send my best wishes for peace and well-being to all ClickZ readers in all parts of the world. Thank you for understanding my dilemma this week. My prayers are with you.

Editor’s note: For more on the impact of the September 11 attack, check the special section of’s E-Commerce/Marketing Channel, The Trade Center Disaster: Industry Response.

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