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The Future Webeconomy: Part 1

February 17, 2008

What if you went online tomorrow to find that there were no ads on any web pages?

Would you be disappointed? Would you miss the ads, the digital window shopping?

How would you know what to buy, or where to buy the things you want? Or do you already know?

The attraction of clicking any online ad is foreign to me. You never know what’s going to open or pop up on your screen. I even don’t like to place my mouse over them, lest a video appear or music clip play.

And it’s not just ads on random sites. Ads on “legitimate” sites like espn.com worry me too–there’s too much doubt about what I’m getting into. Right now on espn.com, on the already crowded home page alone, I count 9 ads. I have no interest in clicking on any of them. After all, I went to ESPN for sports news, not for ads. They’re just a distraction. If all of those ads disappeared, I would lose nothing.

But this isn’t all about me. It’s about the average consumer, the average web surfer. For the most part, I’d say that the only value added by ads is that they let you know a product exists that you previously hadn’t heard of. Like on my favorite movie review web site, aintitcool.com, there’s currently an ad for a Lord of the Rings Ringwraith figurine. Okay, that makes sense. I have no interest in such memorabilia, but it caters to the Ain’t It Cool audience–it’s probably rare that people go looking for Ringwraith figurines, but if you stumble upon the ad on a relevant site, maybe you buy one.

What surprises me most is that people are still paying to put advertisements on the internet. There are so many companies that make and sell banner ads, but are their customers making any money? Maybe there’s a huge mass of people who are not only clicking on banner ads, but also buying the products…I just don’t see it. If you want something specific, you get on the internet, search for it, and buy it. If you don’t want something specific and you want to window shop, you go to a real-life mall.

This raises some new questions and thoughts. Is there an online equivalent to window shopping? A site that clearly and simply displays “storefronts” of various stores. The advantage is that you customize the storefronts to stores that you care about, something you can’t do at a real mall. I’d say that Amazon is the closest thing to an online mall out there, but that’s still not quite the same. It looks like www.windowshopping.com is trying to pull this off, but not at all like I’d envision it.

Tomorrow:

Connection to the Real World

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Josh permalink
    February 18, 2008 8:19 am

    Jamey,

    We run banner ads here and there. Typically, ads like that are sold per thousand impressions. A reputatable, average site will usually charge around $20 per thousand views. When you sign on for a banner campaign, you usually agree to pay for a few million views. On average, you’ll get around .2% click thru rate on these ads. So for every 500 people that view an ad, 1 clicks on it. That may not sound like much but it’s a numbers game. If you put yourself in front of millions, you can afford to only attract .2% of them.

    That said, internet advertising is nothing compared to what it was several years ago. Where advertisers now pay $20 per thousand, they used to have to pay several hundred per thousand. But when websites began packing themselves with a dozen ads per page, consumers quickly learned to ignore them and prices crashed. That’s a big part of what caused the dot com bubble to burst.

    Personally, I hate web ads too, both as a marketer and a consumer. But like television commercials, they’re probably not going anywhere soon.

  2. Jamey Stegmaier permalink
    February 18, 2008 11:16 pm

    Thanks for adding some facts to my blog. You’re right, it’s a numbers game, and as you’ll see in part 3 of my discussion, it may be a necessary “evil.” The only real solution I came up with is making it less of distraction by limiting the number of ads–maybe just having one or two tasteful ads per site. The bewildering thing to me, though, is that anyone at all clicks them. There are a number of pages I visit that just have one ad, but that just makes it even easier to ignore. And whenever I open an article that forces me to watch an ad first, my mind tunes out for the duration of the ad. Why would anyone pay for that? But I guess if you get that .2%, and 10% of them buy something from you, that makes a big difference.

  3. aquavator permalink
    February 19, 2008 5:48 pm

    I don’t understand your extreme hatred of banner ads. They are almost always pointless, but pretty easy to ignore, especially because you’re presumably looking at other items on the page. I actually have clicked on some web page ads. Not those terrible mortgage refinancing or offers of free stuff (I am as perplexed as you about who actually clicks those), but certain niche sites do have ads that appeal to me. For example, there are a few indie rock websites that I visit on a daily basis and many of the ads are for record labels and such, announcing a band has a new album or is going on tour or has merchandise for sale.

    I do, however, get extremely irritated by any ad that expands when my mouse hits it. Or the ads that zoom around on the screen when I open a page. Those suck huge balls.

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