As I sat down to write this post, I flipped on the TV and logged in to Hulu Plus to catch up on a few episodes of Modern Family. To my own dismay, the Internet connection kept going in and out. I don’t have cable so I solely rely on the Internet to stream my favorite shows and movies. Alas, I had to resort to my 27 Dresses DVD (not even a Blu-ray!) to create that white noise while I wrote.

This snag in technology seemed very fitting as I started to write about a book I found as we were cleaning out the CNP conference room. This book, entitled “Taking the Leap into New Media” by Stephanie A. Redman, is from 1999. Its goal was to address how traditional print advertising agencies were handling the transition to the web-driven world.

Surprisingly, the author’s opinion of what made this “new media” so different still holds true today; “The difference is interactivity – giving life to designs by allowing audiences to participate in the transfer of information.” Written five years before Facebook’s invent, who could have imagined how much the definition of “participate in the transfer of information” would evolve.

Here are some key takeaways and predictions that still hold true today, albeit well beyond the scope of what the agencies of 14 years ago may have imagined:

Then: “New Interactive technologies make it possible to individualize all kinds of products and services.”

Now: If you are not using tools to individualize the user experience, then you are missing out on one of the main tenants of advertising and communication – make the audience see themselves in the piece. In this world where the Facebook newsfeed is probably more often read over the cereal bowl than the morning paper, you have to make sure, like Facebook, that you are delivering the content that will make your users stay engaged. From retargeting display ads, to using the vast amount of information gathered by Google Analytics to monitor user behavior on your site, your ability to make it seem like your website is meant just for that individual target audience member at that moment in time is a key to your success.

Then: “The new media environment can make anyone – clients, readers, customers – into publishers. It can also make them think they are designers.”

Now: They are not only publishers, they can easily be designers – with free crowd-sourced templates, any mommy blogger or novice food critic can have a website that is aesthetically pleasing. The challenge for agencies is to make sure their client values both the functionality and the design of the site. There is so much more behind “the pretty face” that has to exist for the content to be a powerful asset to the client and its audience.

Then: “In the past, countless brilliant men and women lived and died in obscurity, their ideas never developed, heard or shared by the world. Today, those same unknown people can publish to the same platform used by presidents, media empires and universities.”

Now: Only one edit: “Countless brilliant (and not so brilliant) men and women … “

While 1999 doesn’t seem so long ago, enjoy this trip down memory lane with a few of the websites the author uses as case-study examples. I think you’ll clearly see the challenge agencies faced with the transition from print design to web design.

Barnes and Noble Website – 1999


Barnes and Noble Website – 2013


MSNBC Website – 1999


MSNBC Website – 2013


People Magazine Website – 1999


People Magazine Website – 2013