7 years as a search insider

“Ahh…our fledgling little industry is growing up.”

And with those words, I became a Search Insider on August 19, 2004, writing my very first column for MediaPost. Today, 6 years, 7 months and 26 days later, I’m writing my 300th Search Insider column. And yes, our little industry is still growing up.

As the senior Search Insider (both, I suspect, in terms of output and age) I’ve seen and written about a lot of things over the almost 7 years I’ve been doing this. In that very first column, I forecast that we were a tipping point in the industry. Search was going to move from the cottage industry category to big business. Based on Google’s every increasing balance sheet, I’d say that happened, but search is still an amazingly small world. At a recent search conference, a few of us (Bruce Clay, Chris Sherman, Danny Sullivan and some other “pioneers”) mentioned how we feel like a village elders council amongst more and more unfamiliar faces. Yet, for every new face encountered, these search events still feel a lot like a high school reunion.

I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with a lot of editorial leeway in what I choose to write about in Search Insider. Many have dealt with the world of search, but ironically, some of the most popular columns (at least, in terms of reader response) have been much more personal in nature. Columns about my family, our various family vacations and the loss of people dear to me (my wife’s grandmother and, more recently, my Uncle Jim) have all struck a chord with the Search Insider audience. For me, search has been an integral part of my life for the last decade and that has been reflected in my columns. It’s always been the human part of searching (or doing anything online) that I’ve found fascinating and I’ve done my best to share that. I guess you could call it the recurring theme of the Thursday slot on the Search Insider line up.

For me, the fact that my daughter learned how to crochet on YouTube, or that my wife discovered that mobile computing can actually make a difference in her life, or that a long haul truck driver that loved family embodied the very same ideals that we see in Facebook at it’s very best – these are the things we should care about. As I’ve said many, many times, technology is transitory, but people and their behaviors are what endure. At the end of the day, technology is just a tool.

I wanted to spend part of this milestone column thanking Ken Fadner, Phyllis Fine and the rest of the MediaPost editorial staff. Writing a weekly column can sometimes be a real pain when I hit Wednesday afternoon and come up completely dry on ideas. But I’ve also found that this forum has been tremendously rewarding for me personally. It reinforced for me that my internal thoughts and views become more valuable when they’re shared. You may not agree with me (and I can be pretty contentious at times, as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Ask and the Canadian marketing community at large can all attest to) but the discussions generated through this column have always been fascinating. And each time I’m out somewhere and someone tells me they read my column; it reinforces the value of the time I’ve spent generating some 180,000 words of content over the last 7 years.

With that first column, I never imagined it would continue for as long as it has. There is no contract in place to secure the relationship. I suppose if I really wanted to quit writing tomorrow, I could. But week in and week out, I have to say that Thursday has become my favorite day. In fact, this column has been the most consistent part of my entire career in search. So I’ll be back next Thursday. And, most likely, the Thursday after that.

Why stop when you’re having fun?

Originally published in Mediapost’s Search Insider April 14. 2011