By Robin Swire •

The Evolution Of Digital Media Over The Past 20 Years

Following the anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee proposing the World Wide Web concept earlier this year, 2014 also sees the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Electronic Telegraph. Back in November 1994 there were just 10,000 websites, and The Telegraph was the first British media outlet to have a fully-fledged online presence, with the Financial Times following in 1996, and the BBC launching their online service a year later.

From Google to the iPhone, let’s take a look at some of the most influential moments that have helped to shape the way that brands and publishers communicate and share their stories.

The Rise Of Google

Google originally launched back in 1998, but it took a fair few years to catch up with it’s rivals. It wasn’t until 2001 when Google finally overtook the market leader AltaVista (remember them?) creating a landmark event on the web. This milestone wasn’t just about search engine rivalry however, it was more of the fact that search engines were now the primary way of navigating the web. Search engines killed the so called ‘walled gardens’ such as AOL, allowing users to easily find what they were looking for on the web with simple search queries, rather than the content being controlled from within one website.

Google became the go-to place for finding what you needed on the internet, establishing multiple branches such as AdWords (resulting in the death of newspaper classifieds), as well as Google News and much more. Google has spawned an industry, with every digital agency attempting to get their clients message and story to the top of its rankings.

Introducing The Blog

It was back in 1994 when Swarthmore student Justin Hall created the first blog ever, Little did he know that he would be changing the way people consume content on the internet forever.

Following the realisation that blogs allowed people to share their thoughts, ideas, news, and much more, a flurry of platforms and websites appeared. Industries and media empires began to grow through the use of blogs; look at Gizmodo and Mashable for example. They continue to influence users online, often releasing breaking stories and exclusive scoops.

The Google Panda algorithm update just emphasised the importance of blogging. In order for a website to rank well on the SERPs, a website needs to be filled with regular, unique content. This is where a blog can really benefit how a website is ranked.

Broadband Access Gathers Speed

Back in the early 00s, the majority of the UK was still operating on the agonisingly slow 56kbps dial-up broadband. Data hungry services such as YouTube launched in the USA and the UK desperately needed to catch up. It wasn’t until the middle of 2005 that broadband access in the UK finally overtook those still using dial-up creating waves across the media. Sites such as YouTube where users could upload and watch videos popped up everywhere, allowing brands to promote media in ways that they’ve never been able to before.

Very Social Media

Whilst the early 00s were all about search engines (Google, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo! etc.), the mid to late 00s were all about the emergence of social media. With MySpace and Bebo leading the way initially, 2004 saw the launch of the game-changing Facebook, with Twitter following in 2006. Social media became a new place for brands and publishers to share their message and stories, an essential piece of any digital marketing strategy.

Say Hello to iPhone

Okay, so the iPhone may not have brought the internet to mobile phones first (remember the delightful WAP?) but what it did do was something truly special. With Apple’s obsession around design and ease of use for consumers, the iPhone became the most important mobile device on the market. It brought an almost full web browser experience to a touchscreen device, flawless integration with social media, and an app store that allowed users to completely customise what content they consumed on their mobile phone. The iPhone allowed users to read their favourite websites, magazines or newspapers whenever they desired.

2010 saw the introduction of the iPad allowing content to be consumed in a more visual way. The release of the iPad saw hundreds of other devices riding on its coat tails, creating new ways for publishers and brands to create content, whether that’s through responsive design or apps. Newspaper and magazine sales are at an all time low in the UK with many media outlets resorting to releasing digital versions of their content. Apple’s Newsstand in particular has proved to be a remarkable success for digital publishing.

Collin Willardson, director of digital marketing at PixelMags, a digital publishing platform for a number of high-profile media brands, including Esquire, Dwell, Men’s Health UK and Cosmopolitan said in an interview recently,

Apple Newsstand is changing the way people buy and read magazines, similar to how people bought and listened to music through iTunes. It’s revolutionary”

Not only that, apps such as Flipboard have become increasingly popular. These allow users to essentially create their own magazines by selecting to follow their favourite blogs from within one app. Mobile devices have completely changed the way that the media release their stories and content.

Mobile is King

As mentioned above, mobile devices have completely changed the way that people consume content on a daily basis. Towards the tail end of 2013, data showed that more than 50% of internet time is spent on a mobile device. It’s only a matter of time until mobile traffic bypasses desktop traffic completely.

What have been your favourite moments of the past 20 years? The introduction of Google+? The power of Buzzfeed? Drop us a line.

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