Left Bay’s Musings on the Media

Searching for answers in sales and marketing

Looking for Alternatives to Paid Ads

There’s a pretty good back and forth going over a TechCrunch guest article that opined that most ad models will “fail” on the internet. The article, by Eric Clemens, a Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, takes aim at paid search in particular, because we “no longer need advertising to obtain the information” we want. Clemens says we can find what we want, when we want it, through more trusted sources than paid advertising. And most of us, he says, don’t even want to view advertising.

Clemens says that “conventional search,” such as a regular Google query, “misdirects” us to sites other than the ones for which we’re looking. “Monetization of misdirection frequently takes the form of charging companies for keywords and threatening to divert their customers to a competitor if they fail to pay adequately for keywords that the customer is likely to use in searches for the companies’ products; that is, misdirection works best when it is threatened rather than actually imposed, and when companies actually do pay the fees demanded for their keywords.”

I get it. Google is making money by providing search results for misspelled keywords and ambiguous searches. But misdirection? I don’t think so. How does Google know precisely what someone is looking for?

And I guess I wasn’t alone with these thoughts. “Search advertising is one of the most powerful forms of advertising precisely because it does not misdirect searchers, nor interrupt them but instead provides answers that they seek,” retorts Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan.

“If I do a search for ‘alaskan fishing trips,’ how is it that a search ad alongside the editorial listings misdirected me? What was that ‘exact’ thing I was supposed to get in the first place? Was it a government document? An Alaskan tourist office? One particular fishing company?

“In plain language, online advertising isn’t failing — the economy overall is failing.”

But that’s precisely the problem. Sites cannot survive on advertising alone. Which both Clemens and Sullivan recognize:

“The net will find monetization models and these will be different from the advertising models used by mass media,” says Clemens. Agrees Sullivan: “Charging for content gets trotted out as a solution. Well duh. People have been charging for content online for ages, and successfully so. Personal sidenote, don’t go banking on micro-payments to be the magic solution. But many sites, in my view, backed away from charging for content because the online ad revenues cranked up. Now newspapers that opened pages up to anyone to increase ad views are having to reconsider that much access. The balance will be found.”

Exactly. That’s why I think a monetizing model like “Kachingle” will eventually be among those working alongside advertising. Kachingle hasn’t launched yet, but when it does, it promises to offer readers a sustainable, easy-to-use way for supporting content sites. Stay tuned for more information.


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