June 10, 2009
Smaller Internet publishers converged on Washington, D.C., this week, aiming to demonstrate to Congress the importance of the advertising-supported Internet as a free information source for consumers and as a creator of jobs and economic growth for the U.S. economy.

"Advertising-supported Internet sites empower consumers in ways no one would have dreamed possible just a few decades ago," said James R. Hood, president and editor in chief of ConsumerAffairs.com. "Hundreds of thousands of sites provide every imaginable information, opinion and entertainment option, while supporting their local economies by providing jobs, paying taxes and helping consumers make better, more informed decisions."

Hood was one of 30 smaller online publishers from across the country who visited Capitol Hill in a first-of-its-kind event organized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

All of the publishers operate Web sites that provide free content to consumers, supported primarily by advertising.

"Well-meaning consumer and privacy advocates are rightly concerned with protecting consumers' privacy, but Congress must be wary of imposing unrealistic and unnecessary restrictions on the advertising that gives taxpayers unrival access to information," Hood said.

At a press conference at the National Press Club today, the IAB announced news across a number of initiatives from the two-day event:

• The Economic Value of the Advertising-Supported Internet Ecosystem. Commissioned by the IAB and produced by Harvard Business School professors John Deighton and John Quelch, it is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of this ever-more important medium. Among its findings: 2.1%, or $300 billion, of the total U.S. GDP is contributed by the ad-supported Internet, which has created 3.1 million jobs, including 20,000 small businesses.

• Long Tail publishers met with Congress and members of the press to tell their own stories of how they have turned their passions into a medium revolution and into businesses that are helping them and their readers achieve the American dream.

• The formal launch of the IABs Long Tail Alliance, an initiative to give voice through the IAB to smaller ad-supported, publishing and technology sites in the digital ecosystem.

• The debut of I Am the Long Tail, a seven-minute video, created by the IAB, that ties together vignettes from Long Tail publishers across the nation that puts the human face on the Long Tail and is part of a larger effort to collect and share the Long Tail story in video and online at iamthelongtail.com.

We wanted the Long Tail Publishers to use their voices to speak to their Congresspeople about what interactive means to them, their employees and their families. Small businesses have been created and transformed in massive numbers across the U.S. with the advent of the ad-supported Internet. said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of IAB.

It is vital that our legislators and regulators, when considering potential regulations, understand that ad-supported publishers are responsible for profound economic value throughout the U.S. Federal and state representatives should not diminish the diversity of voices and ideas in this most diverse of communications media.

"One lawmaker's aide told us that 'saving the newspapers' would be Congress' next job," Hood said. "In fact, journalism is saving itself every day as tens of thousands of small publishers create new content in their various niches. Newspapers are run by adults and can save themselves; they should not become the next ward of the state."