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Business Leadership Web3 Social Media

Are we finally seeing the end of the noughties internet? Ad execs on web futures


By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

May 22, 2023 | 9 min read

Era-defining publishers (first Buzzfeed, then Vice) on the rocks; social giants sweating over TikTok; rapid cultural changes. The 00s version of the internet finally feels like it’s slipping away. But is it – and what comes next? We asked leaders from The Drum Network.

A flip phone

Is the 2000s internet giving way to something new? / Alexander Andrews via Unsplash

Alistair Robertson, creative partner, Nucco: “Search will change more in the next 18 months than it has since the noughties began. That will affect the broader digital ecosystem.

“AI-delivered information will soon take center-stage on search pages, meaning far less real estate for anything other than a very small (and valuable) brand and product set. For consumers, this could be positive, for smaller brands, probably less so.

“These search changes will materially affect the amount of marketing content created. Branded content will no longer be needed at such high volume to channel consumers through a sales journey. Those changes will affect digital advertising’s opportunity to do a job. AI could yet be the killer of the humble banner.

“There’s much changing, and consumers will be the big winners. For brands, perhaps the latter 2020s will be about sponsorships and, dare I say it, quality creative ideas that people want to watch and share!”

Charlie Wade, global executive director of growth and innovation, VMLY&R Commerce: “The internet is constantly evolving. It started as a broadcast ‘message board’, before moving to content sharing, from music to photos. Now, web3 and AI have ushered in an age of decentralization, giving people the power to reimagine worlds, songs, and even the Pope.

“The internet is lauded for the disruption it has fostered: critics have receded in the face of consumer reviews; mass media usurped by social. While this initially brought immediacy and a widening aperture of information, the downside has been an erosion of authenticity, which the decline of legitimate publishers could compound. From fake sneakers to fake news, the ubiquity and the relative ease with which nefarious actors can spread misinformation is real. Those who control platforms (Musk or the masses) must imbue protocols around what is being positioned as authentic.

“Reader habits have morphed, placing stress on revenue models: sponsored editorials and mass advertising wilted, so companies needed new income sources, such as e-commerce integration. Marketers should think about the internet as episodic, with each stage impacted by user needs and technological developments. The 00s era is over. Its replacement offers both opportunities and challenges for brands.”

Matt Belanger, vice-president, director, digital communications strategy, Momentum Worldwide: “The (current) digital revolution comes amid a heightened desire for authenticity and realness. With technological advancement comes knowledge and experience as more people become seasoned social media users. The skill of spotting clickbait, ads, and content that doesn't add value to our lives has sharpened to the point of skipping right past without a thought.

“As we see media companies who focused traditionally on selling advertising as their source of revenue start to fall, it signifies an opportunity for marketers to guide these shifts. Content creators stand out because they are the voice of authentic human beings, gaining trust (and sometimes financial support) from their communities. Providing authentic value is key to standing out, whether that's an opinion, education, or just entertainment.

“We’re hopeful for the future. If we take great care to create quality, relevant content, consumers will flock to it.”

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Nina Goli, digital strategy director, Radley Yeldar: “The internet of the 00s is not dead. It defined the era of the profile and laid the foundation for future developments. Societal dependence on the internet became more evident in the 2010s, bringing forth toxic aspects of web addiction.

“As we progress further into the 2020s, we’re witnessing a resurgence of omni-web experiences with a nostalgic twist. Challenges arising from regulators and a ‘big brother’ mentality present organic opportunities for marketers and publishers to redefine authenticity and credibility in online relationships with audiences.

“In addition to emerging technologies like influencer marketing, user-generated content, AR, and AI, publishers should tap into the gap that exists: a need to reintroduce the human aspect of digital communication. This human touch was instrumental in forging strong bonds with millennials during the early 00s and is now being reclaimed by Gen Z. While challenges persist, there is hope that innovation and adaptation will lead to an improved digital landscape, but we should prepare for further disruptions and adjust our strategies accordingly.”

Danielle Dullaghan, social strategist, Social Chain: “We have to learn from the mistakes of social publishers. Relying on platform functionality for your business model is not possible in an ever-changing landscape. Today, there’s power in TikTok; tomorrow it could be something completely different. Social publishers built their business off Facebook link clicks and video formats, and when Meta pivoted their algorithm, publishers were left in the dust.

“00s internet is not dead, but used in different ways. Facebook favors meaningful engagement; groups and marketplace are absolutely thriving. But social publishers are struggling to organically monetize on a platform that has changed their business model so drastically.”

Dan Bermingham-Shaw, senior digital PR consultant, BuiltVisible: “The new internet age requires fluid, transformative change. Big institutions like the NYT and BBC have kept up by adapting and creating diversified digital businesses, while smaller, punchier companies have done important, valuable work but failed to retain momentum and adjust to new demands.

“Those lessons in failure help push others to improve and create platforms suited to our needs; the successful publishers of tomorrow will be able to incorporate audience convenience in as flexible a way as possible, making use of tools like AI to capture audience minds and interests. The internet is always moving and there will be many more crumbling publishers in the future, but they will fall in order to build something better and more suited to what audiences demand. We loved Vine, but TikTok took the concept and doubled it with huge success. It’s a pattern we’ll continue to see.”

James Crooke, chief technology officer, Rawnet: “Web 2.0 (The 00s version) is far from dead. It remains highly relevant for brands in today’s digital landscape. It has revolutionized brand engagement through interactive and collaborative user experiences, along with social networking and user-generated content.

“Despite challenges faced by publishers such as cookie consent, ad-blocking, and the shift towards closed ecosystems (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, Twitch, YouTube, etc.), web 2.0 technologies continue to evolve, offering new opportunities for personalized experiences and improved customer interactions. To thrive in the uncertain future of the internet, brands must remain agile and adaptable, aligning themselves with evolving audience needs and expectations, allowing them to connect with customers and build strong relationships.”

Business Leadership Web3 Social Media

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Rawnet is a digital agency that defines, designs, delivers and drives strategic products and services that create a long-term positive impact.

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Momentum Worldwide

Momentum Worldwide has a proud history of creating industry-first experiences that authentically place brands in the cultural conversation. 1,000+ individuals across...

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VML is a leading creative company that combines brand experience, customer experience, and commerce, creating connected brands to drive growth. VML is celebrated...

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We make it beautifully simple.

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We connect a digital society.

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Radley Yeldar

Radley Yeldar is an award-winning, independent, London and Birmingham-based creative consultancy. Our 200-strong team of specialists has been helping to create a...

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We strengthen your SocialChain by building stronger connections between people and brands.

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