The Digital Stimulus Package

2 million new gigs were created in 2011, says IAB study

Ad-supported Internet sites created twice as many jobs (2 million total) in 2011 compared to 2007, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Business School and commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Startups made up 19 percent (375,000) of those digital gigs, per the IAB-sanctioned report.

The New York-based trade org also says that the ad-supported Internet ecosystem contributed $530 billion to the U.S. economy last year, up 77 percent from 2007’s $300 billion mark. In addition, its study suggests that ad-supported Internet businesses actually created 5 million direct and “indirect” jobs total. The study made no effort to calculate how many jobs the Web siphoned away at the expense of other sectors (like say, newspaper jobs).

At any rate, the trade org clearly does not want digital’s impact on the larger financial landscape lost on Uncle Sam—were it ever to have designs on major data-restricting legislation in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

“I wouldn’t look at it as, ‘Oh, look at the tactic we are going to volley at the government if they try to do anything,'” said Sherrill Mane, svp of research, analytics and measurement for the IAB. “Because the bottom line is the government and the White House has endorsed our position of self-regulation. This report helps us understand that in fact our gut instinct about being responsible and left alone to do our thing…I think the report substantiates that. I think it gives a lot of food for thought on where growth is coming from.”

Harvard business professor John Deighton, who led the research project, pointed to display ads startups, Facebook, Etsy, Craigslist and other digital movers-and-shakers as jobs engines.

“That entrepreneurial class is where you can expect a lot of innovation to occur,” Deighton said. “These are people who take risks, whose businesses may turn out to be [big] in another four years. We looked at Facebook four years ago—and while not a one-person band at the time—it was a small company. So somewhere in those 375,000 [new jobs created by entrepreneurs] may lie the seeds of what the Internet is going to be.”