Jane Metcalfe, co-founder, Wired Ventures
It wouldn't be hyperbole to say that Jane Metcalfe invented internet advertising. She had help, of course, from the uber-talented team at Wired Ventures, including her partner Louis Rossetto. In 1991, Metcalfe and Rossetto hurried back from Amsterdam to found a new kind of computer magazine, one that focused not on the hardware but on the ways it could change society and our daily lives.
The first eye-popping issue of Wired premiered in 1993, and Hotwired followed in 1994. Hotwired was the first professionally produced website with original content -- in the world! AOL, Compuserve, and the like were walled gardens, but Hotwired was accessed through a direct connection to the internet. It pushed the digital medium beyond text, serving up multimedia in ways that are expected now but were groundbreaking 15 years ago -- and sometimes computer-crashing.
And it had ads. As president of Wired Ventures, Metcalfe signed what was likely the first internet ad deal, landing AT&T as a launch advertiser for Hotwired. Not only did Hotwired serve the first banner ad, it racked up a number of digital innovations: It displayed the first Java-enabled ad units, handled the first geo-targeted banner campaign, and served the first mobile ad (on a Palm Pilot in 1998). Wired was also one of the first to use electronic media to get feedback, via The WELL, an early bulletin board system now owned by Salon.
"Both Jane and Louis had a real perspective on the future. It was clear to them what the wired future was all about. It was a lot less clear to everybody else," says Rick Boyce, SVP of business development for Rooftop Media, who, as head of sales for Wired Digital, helped sell out the site prior to its launch.
Wired portrayed an elite society of digerati where intelligence was sexy, with Metcalfe and Rossetto as their royalty. And early internet adopters were a highly desirable audience, Boyce points out -- as they remain today.
Unfortunately, Wired Ventures floundered after two failed IPO attempts, and Metcalfe and Rossetto sold the magazine to Conde Nast in 1998. As an illustration of how far behind the duo the mainstream media were, consider this: The publishing house initially didn't want Wired Digital. That property was sold to Lycos until Conde Nast got with it and bought it back in 2006. Rossetto now runs a boutique chocolate company, and Metcalfe eschews celebrity altogether. But, she'd been there and done that a long time ago.
Jane's Dictum: Don't sell the tech, sell the so-what.