Once Again, “Old Media” Gets Web Advertising Wrong…

The Online Publishers Association is calling for new, more intrusive ad formats to combat banner-blindness.

A large-scale intrusive format is absolutely necessary in today’s market,” said Adam Kleinberg, chief executive of Traction, a San Francisco ad agency. “With the economy and the move to digital, the marketers are demanding a return on investment in every campaign.”

The association, which includes big names such as CNN, CBS Interactive, IDG, Condé Nast, New York Times, and NBC Universal, cites the impending death of their old media as a need to find a way to better monetize their content on the web.

The first of the formats being proposed is “Fixed Panel,” with recommended dimensions of 336×860 pixels. It will look “naturally embedded into the page layout” and remain visible as you scroll, plastered to the side of the page. The second is “XXL Box,” recommended to be sized 468 pixels wide by 648 high. It is to have “page-turn functionality” and the ability to show video. The third is known as “Pushdown,” with a starting display size of 970×418, “which opens to display the advertisement and then rolls up to the top of the page.”

None of these sound particularly good to me, and the L. A. Times article covers plenty of the arguments against these new formats, as well as the arguments for.

But no one is thinking of the smaller publishers, the ones who understand the medium. (Or the readers, for that matter!) By making advertisements progressively more intrusive and annoying, more people will turn to ad blocking software in defense. In the end the smaller publishers will be hurt, despite their attention to the end user and efforts to not annoy. Advertisers would be less willing to invest in ad space, knowing that a large percentage of people wouldn’t see their ad.

The answer is not bigger, more intrusive ads. The answer is smaller, less intrusive ads that people want to pay attention to.

One company that the OPA can learn from is Envato. Take their PSDTUTS.com as an example. They provide quality content, and pay their writers well. What sort of ads do you see? Not huge banners, but small ones. A cluster of small 125×125 square banners sit off to the side. At the present there are eight, priced at a fixed rate of $1,500 per month apiece, with 11,005,000 impressions. There are a couple additional ad zones as well.

The ads on PSDTUTS are are unobtrusive, but they work. The 125×125 format has taking the blogging world by storm. Part of the success is that, thus far, the most common way to handle the format is not by CPM or CPC, but for a fixed rate. This is better for the publishers, easier to budget for for advertisers, and in the end it’s better for the end user. This trend towards publishers selling their ad inventory exclusively (as opposed to networks’ rotations and targetting) results in higher-quality ads that readers pay attention to.

Envato doesn’t rely on advertising in their Tuts+ business model. The majority of the content accross the network of sites is available to anybody for free, but there is also a small subset of premium content available only to those who pay a small subscription. ($9/month at the present.) This subscription gains you access to the premium content accross the entire Tuts+ network.

Envato’s business model seems to work well for them, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for others. All it takes is learning. Learning how things work on the internet, learning what your readers want, learning how to forget the habits and theories of a dying medium. Old Media, this post is for you.

  • http://isuckatdesign.com Heather Flyte

    Excellent article and straight on point. The old media advertising dog is on its last legs and it will do anything to slow its demise. Coming from a daily newspaper background I can tell you that bloated advertising staffs and the willful refusal to completely embrace new technology led to the newspaper industry collapse, nothing else.

    They're trying to blame small publishers for creating good, targeted content and relevant ads – something newspapers haven't done since the 80s. In the 90s every newspaper wanted to be USA Today, instead of serving their local community.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      Sadly, it doesn't have to be that way. Part of the problem is that they've become focused on posting record profits rather than simply sustaining the business.

      The move to digital publishing is obviously necessary (especially if you consider the costs of printing and distributing physical media), and requires knowledge and skill sets that need to be learned.

      The newspaper industry needs to learn how to properly embrace the internet as their new medium, and they need to look back to how things were done a few decades ago. The purpose of a newspaper is not to progressively make more money each year, but to sustain the business, pay the employees' salaries, and deliver a quality product.

  • http://www.techzilo.com/blogging/media-websites-worst-culprits-not-linking/ Sumesh

    This has been a long standing problem. With the death of a few small daily papers, you'd expect newspapers to learn quickly and shore up their web assets. But it seems that all they'd do is stick to older, failing models. One of the pluses of the economic depressions is that such failing businesses are wiped out.

    I'd written about it once on my blog(see my author link) – it seems a never ending topic.

  • michael ritter

    Hear! Hear!

    After too many jumping animated ads, tacky teeth, and just too much clutter I reverted to Firefox's Ad Blocker Plus. I really tried surfing with ads enabled but couldn't stand it any longer.

    Tasteful ads that are not misleading are not unwelcome, but so much internet advertising is god-awful rubbish.

    Web space is critical and designs are so sensitive. Requiring large-scale obtrusive ads will repulse viewers. Your article will be posted on my Facebook.