My Turn

Online Ads and the Mac Web

- 2002.02.18

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

Much has been written by many Mac webmasters on the state of advertising and the Mac Web, particularly the free content Mac Web we all grew up with in the 90s. I'm sure that if you're reading this, you're well aware of the problem, so I won't go into all the details here.

I'm writing this because of some erroneous assumptions made on the part of vendors buying advertising - and to drop another few ideas into the hat to see if any of them are worth spending the time to try.

Four Ideas

First of all, I have four independent thoughts regarding advertising.

Where's Apple?

What the heck are we doing trying our best to support a company that doesn't support us back? Where are the Apple ads? The people who write and read these sites are on the front lines every day - sitting on the committees, writing the emails of support, making the case in as reasonable a manner as possible in every possible situation. The ad revenue required for the top 20 or so sites for a year would be worth one Chiat-Day spot in prime time. How about it, Apple? Give a little back.

Hit the Target

The ad revenue that print and TV media command for a fleeting glimpse of an ad for products and services I have no need to spend money on vs. buying a targeted banner where I'm likely to encounter it online is ridiculously out of balance.

What I say to my friends is this: If the ad rates on the Web show that vendors think there's little return on their advertising investment, they'd better not take too close a look at print or TV - or radio, either. The same assumptions that advertisers make about the influence ads have over people on the Web are not too far removed from the influence they have on radio and TV.

Keep in mind when I want to see ads on TV or in print, or hear them on the radio, it's whatever they happened to put in front of me. On the Web I go seek out the specific sited I trust and see ads more often related to my interests. Devaluing Internet advertising is a dangerous game; one day advertisers and consumers may wake up and realize that the hold advertising has on us in traditional media is just as tenuous, perhaps more so.

One Problem with Subscriptions

Over at Educator's News, Steve Wood has been talking about the fact that subscriptions aren't his cup of tea - the cost of buying subscriptions for all of his favorite sites is a lot more than he's willing to pay. I have the following problem with subscriptions: Those least able to pay (low-cost dialup modem users) are the people who would benefit most from ad-free content. DSL or cable modem users can brush off the ad-free pitch because the ads don't significantly deter from the experience.

Just Click It

Readers should click through on ad banners when browsing the Web every now and then, just for the hell of it.

Ideas for More Revenue

  • What I'd like to see on LEM is a badge next to every vendor on the used Mac dealers list. That badge would say to me, "I spend money advertising on this site because these kind of people are likely to trust a vendor that invests in a quality site like LEM." Sort of like the Yellow Pages. That would have more influence over me than ads for some financial service I'll never use (or even understand) over at
  • BackBeat Media or a group of sites with subscriptions ought to offer a bulk discount - remove ads from all ten of these sites for a year for $100 - then split the money among the sites. Now even I might pay for that. Makes a nice present, too. [It's something we're looking into.]
  • Ad sharing between sites, and particularly between Web and print sites, could benefit everyone. Imagine if Macworld "traded" equal value ads for LEM in exchange for the same dollar value in print ads in their magazine. Of course, there needs to be some money changing hands to keep BackBeat in business. Could be like a PSA, just to fill in some empty space.

It's one thing to write for a Web site and have all sorts of crazy ideas. It's another when you have to take those few precious hours of productive work time and make them happen. Every hour spent scraping together money means another hour not producing or managing content.

No one's found the magic elixir of life for small independent content-based Web sites yet; and until we do, they'll keep on being absorbed, closing down, and restricting content (like MacFixIt Pro) until they're just a distant memory.

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