15 June 2005
Is there something wrong with internet advertising?

Is there something wrong with internet advertising?  I ask because I notice that I pay precious little attention to internet ads.  I don’t pay that much attention to normal ads but it seems to me that ads on the internet grab even less of my attention than the more traditional variety.  For the most part, whether they be on blog sidebars, above blog banners or on newspaper web sites I simply don’t notice.  If they are those annoying pop-up types I make a mental note to blacklist the advertiser for forever and a day.

Is it the internet, the advertising or just me?  I don’t think it’s just me.  I note some of Tim Worstall’s frankly desperate attempts to generate click-throughs which suggest that most other readers aren’t paying much attention either.  (Note to Tim: it’s not you that I am having a go at but the situation.) Also, while it is easy to name publications that have retreated behind paid-subscription walls eg The Spectator and The Independent it is difficult to name publications that have moved the other way.  It implies that readers aren’t noticing the ads, or at least, not in the way the advertisers would like (I am thinking click-throughs here).

I hope it isn’t the internet as a medium.  As I have said before, all this content (well not all of it but certainly a lot of the reportage and the professionally written commentary) has to be paid for.  I don’t mind paying for it as such but I do object to paying for it on a publication by publication basis.  I want to be able to access everything, from the Times and the Independent to Peruvian Railways Monthly, for a flat fee, perhaps on the same sort of basis as Napster To Go.  It’s just that I don’t see how that is going to happen, at least, not in the short term.

But if pay-per-view won’t work that leaves advertising which, as I said, doesn’t seem to be doing well.  It could be that the internet and advertising just don’t mix.  Why that should be I do not know.  The internet seems to me to be very similar in terms of distance from medium, content, size (more or less) to the daily paper.  But dead-tree newspapers make a fortune from advertising while their live-electron cousins do not.  Is it because the albeit slight, size change makes all the difference?  Or is it, perhaps, because internet advertisers demand click-throughs when actually they should just be concentrating on getting their name known in much the same way they do when the sponsor sporting events?  Or maybe, they are quite right to concentrate on click-throughs but have yet to work out a way of making those click-throughs happen.

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  1. Is there something wrong with internet advertising? Is there ever…

    I could post a very long response to this, but it’s almost 3 AM here. Just wanted to point out that the LA Times earlier this year chucked out its subscription model for certain sections of its site, and I believe they are doing away with registration (if they have not done so already - I think they have but am too lazy to check) altogether. This is thanks to the clever new GM of LATimes.com, Rob Barrett, who knows enough to listen to me when it comes to this stuff. (Just kidding. I’m sure he planned to do all this way before I threatened to beat him with a shovel if he didn’t.)

    For those struggling to make money on personal blogs, I suggest they rethink their approach. Those who stand the best chance of turning a buck are those who address some unfilled or underserved niche with their blog. A political blog, needless to say, is not quite there. Whereas the guy who sat behind me at a conference today, Andrew Carton, makes $10,000 a month in revenue from his blog on all things Treo (http://blog.treonauts.com/).

    The bigger question for me is why anyone would think it worth their while to beg and pester their readers to perform certain acts (sounds dirty, heh) just so they can turn a quick buck (sounds even dirtier)? Even if in the short-term there is a big jump in click-throughs and the money rolls in, the long-term consequences of annoying people is that they desert you, and potential high-traffic linkers will be more hesitant to link to you.

    What was that about this just being a quick post?

    Posted by Jackie on 15 June 2005 at 04:57am

  2. Internet advertisers need to stop thinking like press or billboard advertisers, and learn to be cleverer and more subtle. Things like viral marketing are one way.  Carpet-bombing eyeballs just isn’t going to work, because unlike TV, print or roadside billboards they *don’t* have a captive audience.

    I suspect the web marketing is also going to be more and more orientated towards specialised niche products, tightly targetted to match the niche content of the website they appear on. Such ads will be perceived by users as less intrusive than similar ones advertising unrelated mass marketing crap.

    The resulting model would be closer to The Railway Modeller than The Sun.

    Posted by Tim Hall on 15 June 2005 at 11:36pm

  3. What do you mean by ‘viral marketing,’ though, Tim? If it’s things like movies forwarded via email, then no thanks. If it’s stuff like blogs, podcasts, vlogging, etc, then yes please.

    But why think only of ads when we think of marketing? Ads are intrusive however they are deployed. Engagement has proven to be a far more effective and cost-efficient method of marketing. (For more on the shift from interruption to engagement, I highly recommend the resources available at SMLXL‘s blog. The guys behind SMLXL are responsible for some of the most famous ad campaigns of recent years - Tango and Go, to name but two - but have turned away from interruptive advertising in favour of engagement marketing.)

    Yes, the mass market is dead and being replaced by a mass of niches. But relevance is as important as niche targeting. Companies need to find ways to make their products and services relevant to the lives of their customers. Example: Tesco’s baby club for mums offers value, is relevant to customers, and has been wildly successful - relevant marketing at its offline best. Bringing that sort of marketing online is now cheaper, easier, and clever than ever. This sort of marketing should and - I hope - will flourish in coming months and years.

    (Sorry for such a lengthy comment again, Patrick.)

    Posted by Jackie on 16 June 2005 at 02:49am

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