Happy Birthday, HotWired!

October 27, 2009

Fifteen years ago today, HotWired (my second start-up) was launched, introducing the banner ad onto the internet. It’s very hard to imagine it has been that long and quite frankly that anyone on the internet even remembers although it was wonderful to see AdAge magazine commemorate the anniversary with a very sweet piece by Frank D’Angelo, whose agency (Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer) ended up buying 4 of our first 14 advertisements. Frank writes:

Has any one item in our industry been encased with so much debate – at times even disdain – as to its true value, role and contribution to marketing communications from its inception in 1994 to this day? Yet the display banner is the impetus to the creation of the online advertising category that will reach beyond $24 billion in 2009, according to eMarketer. Perhaps more important, no other development since has advanced advertising measurement, effectiveness and accountability than the display banner.

Given the amount of time gone by and how fast things change on the internet, one article in AdAge is probably the right amount of celebration (although we are throwing a small party later tonight to get as much of the gang back together again). And I will say that probably 80% of what you read about that time period (I’m looking at you Wikipedia) is somewhere between incomplete and the intentional rewriting of history. But hey, I’m still too young to be an old bitter man, I’ll write that post on the 25th anniversary.

Love them or hate them, advertisements on the internet have funded a lot of great content, applications and services that we all use for free every day. If we hadn’t launched HotWired with ads on October 27, 1994, no question someone else would have brought the model online soon thereafter, so we don’t claim any genius on the idea. But someone had to do it first, in scale and with a lot of original content behind it to support the model and that ended up being a group of us at Wired magazine. Yay us!

I hope you’ll join me in the celebration!


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