Can Web Ads Add Up For Readers, Not Just Advertisers?
Like many of you, I've gotten too much practice at clicking the "close" button on Web ads that try to seize my attention by popping up, popping under or pushing down. Unlike many of you, my livelihood partially depends on how many Web ads people do notice and, to some degree, act upon.
So I don't pretend to be a detached, objective observer in today's column about the state of the online-ads business.
(Note that this morning, The Post announced yet another round of employee buyouts--the day after Post chairman Donald E. Graham issued a rather gloomy letter to shareholders about the paper's short-term prospects.)
My story today began as a blog post on Google's new "interest-based advertising" initiative, in which the Web search/services giant will use anonymized data about the online reading habits of users to determine their interests -- but will also let those users see and edit those profiles.
The immediate reaction to proposals like that is often a cry of "none of your damn business!," followed by efforts to engineer some escape from the planned surveillance.
But if advertisers can't get our attention with information that's more relevant, they will instead try to grab it by being more obvious (which often means being more obnoxious). In a declining economy, they're not going to sit back and run the same old boring banners.
I hate annoying ads, and I don't like irrelevant ones even if they refrain from flashing or floating across the browser window. But if ads are relevant, I don't mind. If they're relevant and can tip me off to a good deal, I will bring them upon myself.
The best example I can think of, as mentioned in the column, is Amazon's Twitter feed of MP3 deals. This has gotten me to spend money faster than perhaps any other ad I've seen -- it's been a matter of seconds between my seeing a blurb about a one-day sale on an album and my clicking the "buy" button on Amazon's site. In the process, I've gotten comfortable with buying MP3s on that site... oh, and look, here I am repeating its sales pitch to you all for free!
So if a) the ads that I'm going to see anyway can speak to my own interests instead of making me wonder what kind of cretin the advertisers think I am; b) I can remain a faceless, nameless bundle of interests to the advertisers in the process; and c) this keeps my employer in business, I will not object.
I had no idea if readers with no economic stake in Web ads would see my point. But so far, it seems that you do. Every single comment on the column and reader e-mail in my inbox has talked only of how annoying it is to have to look past, click through or read around obnoxious ads. If you disagree with that early verdict, or if you want to add your voice to the chorus, the comments are yours...
March 26, 2009; 11:18 AM ET
Categories: The Web , The business we have chosen
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