By Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association
President Barack Obama recently delivered his fifth State of the Union address to the American people. The speech is an annual ritual that has come to signify a moment of reflection for the nation as well as an opportunity for the President to articulate his vision for the future. As I watched the President speak before the assembled dignitaries, I was struck by just how much has changed since 2009, when the President climbed the steps to the Capitol and first spoke to the country as commander-in-chief.
Similarly, the past five years have been nothing short of amazing for those of us who work with the Internet industry every day. As the President of The Internet Association – an organization situated at the intersection of cutting edge Internet companies and Washington politics – I have watched as native advertising, online shopping and the explosive growth of small business content marketing have transformed the Internet from a niche activity to an integral part of daily American life. In 2009, apps were in their infancy, the “share economy” had yet to be born and more than likely, your mom wasn’t on Facebook.
The story of the last five years is really the story of the Internet. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are now fixtures in our lives, and on the stock exchange. There’s now an app for just about anything and some of the best new television series are Netflix originals.
The Internet is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy and its influence is being seen in some unexpected places. “Internet jobs” are not just in California — they have moved to main streets in cities and towns from coast to coast. Every economic sector – from farms and ranches in America’s heartland to start-ups in garages from Milwaukee to Muskogee – are using the Internet to launch businesses, increase productivity and create jobs. Incredibly, nearly all new job growth is attributable to firms younger than 5 years. In the blink of an eye, the Internet has become one of the greatest engines for economic growth, freedom and prosperity the world has ever known. As recently reported in Forbes, “According to the Content Marketing Institute, the top B2B content marketing strategies are social media, articles on a business’s website, eNewsletters, case studies, videos and articles on other websites.” Though the 87 percent acceptance rate of social media as a marketing tool shouldn’t come as a surprise; it’s rare that any of us goes a day without checking our Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn profile.
The Internet as a ubiquitous part of American life may be the new normal, but we can’t take it for granted. In many ways, the Internet as we know it today is a happy accident. Much like the Cornflake or the Post-It note, the Internet is a byproduct of an organic experiment – a giant petri dish allowed to grow unmolested, unmanaged and unsupervised. The Internet wasn’t created by any one company or individual. It isn’t regulated or controlled by any government or agency. It is a collection of all of us.
Innovation is unpredictable and the Internet is a fundamentally disruptive technology. Because of its unique nature, free from government control and nearly non-existent barriers to entry, the Internet has unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurialism and creativity, with its decentralized and open model powering this revolution.
But not everyone is a fan. As the Internet has matured, entrenched interests have sought to control it. We are only two years removed from Big Media’s attempt to censor web content and alter the Internet’s DNA. Last year, the United Nations attempted to change the framework under which the Internet has thrived. 2013 was dominated by revelations about data collection and spying by the NSA. And a recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling on net neutrality has raised concerns that broadband providers now have a green light to charge tolls and erect anti-competitive barriers to content providers.
In short, powerful forces from the market and the government are at the door, trying to change the Internet as we know it. The lesson is clear: if we want to keep Internet as we know and love it, we will have to fight for it. For this very reason, some of the most well-known and innovative Internet companies joined forces in 2012 to create The Internet Association.
As content marketers, you understand the stakes of this fight more than most. We hope you will join us by lending your voice. For more information, sign up for our newsletter located on our website at www.InternetAssociation.org or follow us on Twitter @InternetAssn. Together, we can keep the Internet free and open for all of us.