2007 retrospective: a year on the Internet

This is an English translation of a post written in French. The original article – and the external links it contains – are here.

Ceci est une traduction d’un billet rédigé en français. Le billet original et les liens qu’il contient sont ici.

Here’s my personal diary of last year’s top web-related events in France and abroad.

January
Thierry Crouzet publishes Le Cinquième Pouvoir (≈ The Fifth Estate). It’s one of just a handful of essays on the new forms of participation powered by the Internet.

Coca-Cola spends more than a quarter of its marketing budget for Coca-Cola Zero’s launch online: the record for major launches in early 2007.

February
David Neeleman, founder and CEO of jetBlue, uses YouTube to speak directly to his customers following the airline’s worst crisis ever. This video, “Our Promise to You”, will remain a landmark in the history of online crisis communication.

DailyMotion, YouTube and skyblogs help a new dance craze take over France’s clubs and streets: Tecktonik.

March
After seeing sales decline, sensationalist news magazine Choc enjoys a huge buzz on the web when viral marketing agency Buzzman designed a campaign based on a fake video showing a look-alike of star TV show presenter Jean-Luc Delarue losing it during a plane trip.

Summize, a new model of online “trending” marketing, goes live. No sign of a French equivalent yet.

Online campaigning is going full blast, with politicians experimenting with the many opportunities offered by the Internet. Some even invest in Second Life. Online versions of conventional media keep adding more interactivity to their websites.

April
Iconic US magazine Life stops printing. It will only be available online.

Consolidation in online advertising: Google acquires DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. A month later, Microsoft buys aQuantive for 6 billion dollars.

May
Steve Jobs announces a measure to make Apple greener: it’s the outcome of nine months of online lobbying by Greenpeace through the GreenMyApple website.

Unlike with the referendum on the European Constitution, the results of the presidential elections only moderately reflect the online debate.

Launch on May 6 of Rue89.com, the first experiment in France with “hybrid journalism”. Former Libération journos manage contributions from non-professionals. Six months later, Rue89 is already famous for several scoops and has almost a million visitors per month. Other projects like Lepost.fr (part of Le Monde group) and MediaPart follow the same model.

Facebook lets its members freely develop online applications and collect all the income from them. This kicks off a surge that makes Facebook the Internet phenomenon of 2007, establishing a new form of relationship between individuals and besting MySpace, Second Life, Twitter and so forth.

June
15 million viewers in ten days checked whether President Sarkozy was really drunk at the G8 summit. A surprising buzz for a video that was actually quite uneventful.

After twelve years, the famous show Arrêt sur Images, which analysed TV coverage of events, is taken off the air. After some controversy peppered with petitions, presenter Daniel Schneidermann and his team moves out and prepares a comeback on the web.

The German media group Springer takes a 40% stake in Aufeminin.com, France’s leading online women’s magazine, bringing its stock value to €284 million. That’s €44 million more than what LVMH’s CEO Bernard Arnault will pay in November for France’s number one business daily, Les Echos.

July
Agoravox launches its first participative survey, a new experience in coordinated collective intelligence. This first is dedicated to vaccination.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau reports a 40% increase e-advertising spend. France’s train operator SNCF remains the biggest online advertiser. Almost 11% of advertising spend in France goes online: it’s the only advertising channel enjoying real growth.

August
Rather discretely, Google becomes a publisher, announcing the possibility for stakeholders to comment on Google News items that refer to them. A solution used at Google News US – and only moderately.

An American student, Virgil Griffith, puts a new tool online: Wikiscanner. It lets any Internet user track back to their source the anonymous changes to Wikipedia articles. Many political parties, companies and public figures are caught red-handed.

British students change HSBC policy by networking online: their Facebook petition gathered thousands of signatures and made the bank reverse its decision to increase overdraft penalties.

September
Chanel rolls out an impressive blogger campaign.

The New York Times.com, the world’s most visited website, drops its subscription model and allows everyone to access all its content for free – betting on an increase in advertising income.

It’s the year of the widget. UPS spends most of its 2007 online and offline advertising budget on promoting its desktop companion: probably one of the most ambitious and daring campaigns for a web service (designed by McCann Erickson).

October
After the considerable buzz of its Evolution campaign, with denounced the manipulation of images, Dove comes back with an attack on the beauty industry in its new video Onslaught. A bit rich, some say, considering that Dove is owned by Unilever… which also owns brands practicing the kind of communication attacked by Onslaught.

No more label, no more outlets: Radiohead uses the Internet as the only sales channel for their latest album, In Rainbows. The band asks web users to pay the price that seems right to them. But how many artists can afford to do this?

Géo magazine introduces its webdocumentaries: a success that illustrates the increasing integration of online images and the phenomenon of web TVs.

More than just a buzz on the web, it’s a real phenomenon: the Martine Cover Generator attracts thousands of jolly users who created parodies of the popular children’s books series Martine, just by changing the title on the cover. Until Martine’s publisher Casterman asks for the website to shut down a month later.

Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo joins a bloggers’ meeting during the consultation process on the environment.

Microsoft takes a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million and announces profiled advertising.

November
A spam email from BETC Euro RSCG to Laurent Gloaguen, part of an eBay PR campaign targeting bloggers, sparks a huge outcry on the web and triggers another debate on the relationship between brands and blogs.

Pointblog, the blogging magazine, shuts down. The audience and the rhythm of publication were too low to attract enough advertising. Gilles Klein continues with Le Monde du Blog.

IPSOS’ annual survey in Australia reports a strong aversion of Internet users to advertising.

Denis Olivennes, the CEO of music, books & electronics retailer FNAC, gets both the arts industry and Internet access providers to agree to his suggestion for thwarting music and video piracy: cut off the offenders’ Internet access.

The iPhone marks the true beginning of mobile Internet.

December
Publisher Robert Laffont announces the end of the paper version of the Quid encyclopaedia. The annual publication is made redundant by the massive online availability of information (and probably by Wikipedia in particular).

Things seem a bit slow at Web3, the international congress for bloggers and all kinds of entrepreneurs in Paris. Nothing much new in terms of content, but still a place to be for networking.

Facebook reaches the million member mark in France.

Skyblog was popular, now it’s also profitable. Skyrock announces that it earns more online than with its radio station.

The publication of swimmer Laure Manaudou’s pictures naked set the web on fire (with a record number of searches for Laure + Manaudou + Naked). But swift action by the athlete’s lawyers gets the pictures offline and demonstrates that the Internet may no longer be the legal no-man’s-land people believe.

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