FERTILE GROUND: It's courting disaster to borrow a phrase from that discredited seer Norman Lamont, but, as I write, it's clear that the green shoots of recovery are visible in the new economy. Market sentiment will never, thank goodness, recover to the manic levels it reached a year ago, but the doom-and-gloom hangover that followed has now been replaced with a more realistic approach. This has been driven by two factors: an acceptance by investors and fund managers that the internet isn't going away as a valid method of creating profitable businesses, and the adoption of a more hard-headed approach by companies that survived the crash. Strategies have been reworked, jobs cut, costs controlled and clear revenue models identified; launch CEOs have been axed (though some, ahem, continue to cling on to their jobs). The downsizing has been painful for an industry weaned on rapid, spectacular growth, but it has brought a lot of companies closer to the holy grail of profitability. There's still weeding out to be done before the green shoots start to bloom, but it's a start.
EASTERN PROMISE: Chairman Mao wouldn't like it, but the internet is propelling economic, social and perhaps even political change in China. It is predicted that, by 2003, half the world's one billion internet users will be in Asian countries. Many will be Chinese - a projected 20 million users by the end of this year and close to 100 million by 2002. What makes this a fantastic potential market is that, although there are several different spoken dialects (mutually unintelligible to their respective speakers), the country's 1.2 billion people share a common written language and a common body of literature. The economic scramble for China has begun, and the net is leading the charge. Roll on the Pacific century. What price English continuing to dominate the language of the new economy?
DODGY NUMBERS: If this new media is ever going to succeed, however, it has to start adopting agreed industry standards and a language to measure traffic, instead of the variety of misleading methodologies employed now.
One site's hit is another's page view, one site's unique visitor is another's unique user, and so on. It frustrates advertisers and enables sites to make outlandish claims. It's like newspapers chucking bundles of copies at train stations, cinemas and airports and printing editions overseas, then adding them to the bottom-line sales figures. Offenders are slowly being brought to book, but more transparency is needed in our world if we're going to convince the dot.com doubters.