Breaking Free From the Page-View, Display-Ad Prison
Sites are shoving display ads down your throat, above content, on either side of it and below it. The more display ads they show, the more money the site earns. And more page views equals more display ads. Why list the Top 10 Running Shoes on a single page and generate one impression when you can list them on 10 pages and generate 10 impressions?
Historically the way to drive more ad dollars has been to increase page views, but this practice has invariably made ads less valuable. This style of page-view advertising is becoming a business model of the past. You've probably read the countless stats showing that a majority of display ads are being ignored by consumers, including: "31 percent of ad impressions were never in view of the consumer," "43 percent of consumers ignore internet banner ads," and "88 percent of ads in apps are ignored by users." For the love of advertising, there's a different study released every week that devalues online advertising and gives our industry a bad name.
If you look at some of the most popular sites and apps (Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Pandora, Instagram), none of them generates advertising revenue through page views. Of course, many have yet to figure out how they're going to monetize their site from advertising. With that being said, I'm fairly confident that none of them will be turning to 300x250 display ads and other standard ad units.
These sites are primarily concerned with the user experience and are exploring ways to monetize their sites and apps by providing value to advertisers by intertwining brand messages within people's activities. Facebook is bringing your social graph into the ad equation and is turning brand content into one of its primary sources of advertising. Twitter is placing promoted messages within your stream of tweets. The trick for each of these companies is providing premium advertising at scale, without disrupting the user experience.
The key will be to look for natural breaks in the user experience and place highly targeted, relevant ads to users at that moment, when they're most likely to engage. Furthermore, publishers should limit the ads seen by a user and make sure that ads are relevant to what the user has done or is doing.
I'm not going to end this with a sweeping prediction that I won't ever be held accountable for. Instead, I'm excited to see advertising lose its black eye and break free from the page-view prison we've been in for too many years. Both online advertising and online content will be better off.