free html hit counter Toward the Endemic: What's missing in PPC/Behavioral/Contextual Ad Nets | John Battelle's Search Blog

Toward the Endemic: What's missing in PPC/Behavioral/Contextual Ad Nets

By - May 25, 2004

asseenontvDuring the AdTech panel yesterday I started ranting about what I think is missing from all this contextual, behavioral, paid search, and network-based advertising – you know, all the stuff that’s setting records and revolutionizing marketing. All the stuff I’ve been hyping for the past two, no wait, ten years now. And I think I’ve come up with a clear way of saying it: what’s missing is the advertiser’s endemic relationship with the community a publisher serves.

I’m almost certainly restating what others have already pointed out, but then again, I’ve not seen it put this way yet. So think about a “traditional” publishing environment. You’ve got three parties in an ongoing, intentional conversation: The reader/viewer (we’ll say audience for lack of a better word), the editor/programmer/author/creator (we’ll say publisher for lack of a better word), and the advertiser. In a traditional publication, these three parties interact in various ways through the medium of the publication. Most importantly, the advertiser has voted with their dollars for that particular publisher, hopefully because the advertiser had take the time to understand that publication’s audience, and hence wants to be in conversation with that audience.

What’s inherent in this interaction is the intention of all parties to be in relationship with each other. This creates and fosters a sense of community – the best publications always have what are called “endemic” advertisers - those that “belong” to the publication’s community, that “fit” with the publication’s voice and point of view. I’ve found that in the magazines and sites I’ve helped create, my readers enjoyed the ads nearly as much as the editorial, because the ads served them, seemed to understand who they were in relation to the community the publication created.

It’s this relationship which I find entirely missing in all these contextual, behavioral, paid search networks. Sure, they are “relevant” to either a search, or to the content they match. But they are driven by metadata and the actions of only one of the parties – the content of the publisher for example (AdSense), or the actions of the audience (Claria, Revenue Science, Tacoda, etc.). As far as I know, none are driven by an understanding of the give-and-take that occurs between all three parties in a consensual relationship mediated by the publication. A site which has only AdSense or behavioral advertising fails to value (or monetize) the community connection between audience, publisher, and advertiser. Advertisers in these networks are not intentionally supporting the publication, and by extension they are not supporting the community the publication has created. In essence, they are not being good citizens of the community where their advertising is being displayed.

To summarize: Something is lost when advertisers don’t buy based on the publication. I’m not arguing that buying based on context or content isn’t valuable, it certainly is. But in the long run, not considering the publisher’s role devalues both the publication *and* the advertiser in the minds of the publishers’ audience.

So what, you might be saying. Most major publications utilize both network-based and more traditional “display” advertising – look at the NYT or CNET or CBS Marketwatch. True enough – Martin mentioned yesterday that his “display” advertising at NYT.com is up dramatically and starting to show real traction. (And, by they way, the NYT is steering clear of AdSense image, for obvious reasons….) But the real problem is with smaller sites, sites that can’t afford to be understood or purchased any other way but through a network. Sites where there is simply too much transactional friction to make the advertising purchase worthwhile. Sites like….blogs, for example.

Advertisers can’t grok all the blogs which might be potential fits for their marketing dollar. Besides the tedium of finding and evaluating them, blogs have no standardized marketing or advertising practices, so working with each is a handrolled labor of love (I am in the process of managing such a Cohiba right now over at boing boing).

Yet more than most publications, blogs are about the relationship between author and community. Any advertisers who comes into that conversation with a tin ear does a disservice to all parties. My conclusion: If advertisers are going to truly benefit from marketing on blogs, they will have to get to know each one to the point that their ads speak with a voice that is consistent in the community where they are advertising. You can’t do that on contextual or behavioral or PPC networks as they exist today.

To its credit, AdSense has given marketers a taste of the blog world, and bloggers a taste of a credible business model. And AdSense spares marketers the trouble of negotiating with each and every site owner. But if advertisers want to find those sites that, in the long term, are endemic to their business, sites which reflect a conversation they’d like to join, they are going to have to actually join the conversation. And we, as bloggers, are going to have to help them join. Henry at BlogAds is working on one solution to this, and I am sure there are more to come.

Over time, I believe advertisers will see the value of long-term relationships with endemic communities of interests. Ideally, they will be able to both buy a specific site, as well as reap the benefits of contextual/behavioral/PPC models. Wouldn’t it be cool if we helped them figure this out?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

27 thoughts on “Toward the Endemic: What's missing in PPC/Behavioral/Contextual Ad Nets

  1. Robert Sayre says:

    I like to think of the ideal AdSense program as something similar to ads in Rolling Stone. RS readers want and expect to see tons of record company ads. It’s half the fun.

    The reason it works so well is because there are three conversations, each between two parties. The advertisers interact with the readers in a variety of mediated and unmediated circumstances. The magazines provides readership profiles (xx income, 18-34, etc). AdSense works really, really well if it’s used by advertisers who interact with consumers in mediums besides the Internet.

  2. Matt McAlister says:

    This is a strong argument for the high-value advertising opportunities a publisher can offer an advertiser AND the site’s users. The value of the message exposure on a site is lost when an advertiser buys a CPC campaign, particularly a blind CPC campaign like you get via Google. A campaign can be valuable to the user and create demand for the advertiser’s product without eliciting any clicks. Of course, both publishers and advertisers need to work much harder to develop exposure campaigns that drive brand demand than most of them currently do. Does that come in the form of rich media, 1/2 page ads, advertorials…? All of the above, plus new ideas we’ve barely begun to get right.

  3. Bill Flitter says:

    Well said. I call this new type of advertising, “Conversational Advertising.” If your favorite weblog publisher makes a few on-topic product or service recommendations, you probably would welcome those suggestions. It

  4. Microadvertising – i wrote about this sometime ago – http://www.commonme.org/microadvertising/000171.html

    I agree with you.

    What we need to see is a company like Google open up their Adsense directory and let me bid for placement on specific blogs.

    In this microworld with such niche publications creating a relationship with a specific medium has as much benefit as contextual ads.

    What the world needs is micro – not only contextual. Simple ways to book advertising on a lot of smaller sites through a selfservice interface – pricing perhaps determined somewhat by auctioning.

    http://www.blogads.com is an early small interesting player in this market – but it would take a company like Google to take it mainstream.

    (or in the most perfect world some open standards that would allow for more decentralized way of doing it)

  5. Thomas Ordahl says:

    Is this simply a matter of a publisher feeling disintermediated? Reading this posting reminds of the complaints of other disintermediated professions… insurance agents, real estate brokers, travel agents, recruiters, etc. They argue that there will be something special lost if they are removed from the process and yet so often they are hard pressed to define the specialness. You say “my readers enjoyed the ads nearly as much as the editorial, because the ads served them, seemed to understand who they were in relation to the community the publication created” Implicitly, this suggests that in this case the editor/publisher possesses this “understanding” and is able to effect a sense of community. Couldn’t also this sense of community be produced — as so often happens on the Web — through the unintended but happy accident of related interests.

  6. dave pell says:

    Several years ago one of my blogs was feartured in a story in a major newspaper. On the same day, a well-known blogger also mentioned my site. It will surprise few blog-aware folks that the traffic from the Blogger was significantly higher than the traffic from the newspaper. One plug came from a brand. The other came from a person, a virtual friend that people checked in with each day and whose advice and opinion they grew to trust.

    Publishers need to be told these stories. Traffic and exposure are not the only measurements of the success of an ad. In fact, they may not even be the primary measurements.

    I have experimented some with adsense, Overture and putting ads on the sites of fellow bloggers. When I selected the latter with care, the results were remarkable. Not just the number of visits, but the number of those visitors who added my blog to their bookmark list and tend to return often.

    This model needs to to made available to major advertisers on a broad level.

  7. Seun Osewa says:

    Some magazines follow this model; other’s don’t. It completely depends on the content and focus of the magazine. The same with blogs. Most blogs aren’t commercial in their focus.

    –ALSO–

    Bear in mind that many blogs actually get most of their visitors from search engines. Search engine visitors are not interested in the weblog; they are interested in the information they came to find on the page. For them, there is no relationship.

  8. Scott Rafer says:

    I think there are a few attempts at placing endemic ads that art getting short shrift here. The category-based ad placement of Kanoodle and Industry Brains are a step towards placing endemic ads. So are Google and Overture’s local ad services, at least for certain situations.

  9. Hey Scott – Yes…but…category advertising is still buying based on a category, which is an abstraction from the publication.

  10. I found this to be a valuable article with a number of insightful points. At the same time, the push towards “conversational” advertising leads me to wonder who there will be to bell the cat.

    In my experience, ads appear in magazines not merely because there is a mystical conversation going on between the reader and the magazine, but because there has been a real converstation between an ad salesman for that magazine and a media buyer. And not just a conversation, but a relationship that has been built up from many meetings and conversations.

    To whip out and old chainsaw, you can have the best product and the best ideas in the world but nothing happens until someone sells something. Who are going to be the salesmen for these micro-accounts? Good media salesmen can make well into the six figures every year. Who is going to actually do the legwork and make the phone calls and send the emails and present the numbers and demographics to make microadvertising work? Where’s the living to be made?

    It seems to me that if you can solve that you can solve the other. Perhaps it is some sort of media-buyer to media-placer situation that has to evolve. One person with the ability to place ads across a spectrum of small outlets with a “conversational” understanding of all of them and has gained the trust of a media-buyer to do this effectively. A kind of ubersalesman who has put together a big sheaf of like minded blogs/minipublications and sells the package. It seems to me that that sort of scaling is required.

    Perhaps what we need is a new class of salesman: The BlogRep.

  11. morgan says:

    You are wrong. But I’d like to know why I am – fiated away (for this point) are privacy concerns, corporate evilness, and community being more important than individual interests.

    First, yes, paid search isn’t perfect placement.

    But ultimately, the advertiser seeks only to buy the “right” audience. And perhaps therein lies the problem with your groupings. The “readership” or the show “viewers” are not yet individualized.

    I want to show Battelle my Rolex, penis pump, Mac ad. Battelle consumes a certain amount of media (x) and he has a certain amount of disposable income (Y). We can and should know that – Battelle should want us to know that.

    Also, advertisers might know Battelle has a car lease coming up in 2 months. His wife is pregnant. These are lesser known values and insider info – Battelle should also want us to know that, but he’d have to make it public himself.

    Now then – when the advertiser can “bid” on Battelle’s 60 seconds, his institial, whatever – then the Maximum Attention Span Value of Battelle can be acheived.

    The publisher cares not a whit about what that ad is, because they are afterall attention span farmers – and selling thier reaped attention span for maximum value is in thier interest.

    More to the point – Battelle plays golf and likes to ride his Harley – he wants, no he NEEDS, a new micro-celebrity to create and serve him up a weekly show about Harley riding golfers. Battelle’s own identity is being catered to because there’s more money on the table for publishers.

    So, yes argue away about imperfect paid search, but only do so about the failure of search to track the end user – not about needing all three pieces in the same pie plate.

    OK. Why isn’t this dead on?

    M

  12. Yesh says:

    Good article. But..
    People read blogs ’cause they are interested in the subject/author viewpoint, it’s a public discourse, interactive, and to some degree authentic.

    Sure way to kill or create mistrust in blogging is to place paid advertisement (even if the blogger agrees to this)

    Unless a blogger makes an explicit recommendation paid placement (no matter how smart) will not work.

    My 2CentsW

  13. Bob Schmidt says:

    Interesting concept, “endemic” ads. You’re definitely on to something that lays in the realm of competitive differentiation by publishers and site owners.

    There is without question a significant, and tangible qualitative aspect to the interplay you highlight between publisher, audience and advertiser that no publisher or site owner should ever lose site of.

    There certainly _should be_ a response loop connecting all three, but it certainly isn’t necessary in order to create an effective advertising environment. That it is not necessary is the essence of the points made by those who disagree with you.

    What they’re not perhaps acknowledging is the strength of your point which is that only by knowing the audience and the advertiser (i.e. a publisher’s two main customers) can the publisher/site owner do an effective job of crafting editorial/content that is highly in tune with the needs of both, and content which itself reflects the nature of, and indeed admitted conciousness of that relationship.

    That is entirely in sync with the modern publishing business model, and in the end is a key factor that will enable some publishers to prevail with their traditional approach in the age of the disintermediation mentioned by one commenter.

    The benefit of your endemic concept lies, I believe, in the area of how can a publisher continue to engage in the traditional publishing business model in spite of (even if sometimes along with) an outsourced third party solution to ad sales.

    However, when you consider that many publishers employ third party ad rep companies, you will find that there are many paralells in the issues that arise from using reps and the issues that arise from using an outsourced ad provider/technology, though I will certainly agree that the technology even further isolates the publisher from customer feedback than a rep organization. The problems of using an outside rep are well documented and I won’t mention them here.

    Publishers can take a number of measures to overcome outside rep problems, however, starting with surveys, focus groups, one on one dialogue with readers and advertisers by publisher and editor, and other feedback and relationship building tools. All business as usual for large publishers, but probably only haphazardly employed by small publishers and site owners.

  14. has anyone seen any initiatives so far in Battelle’s line of thought? AdBrite and Blogads go a long way, but there’s more i guess?

  15. Publishers can take a number of measures to overcome outside rep problems, however, starting with surveys, focus groups, one on one dialogue with readers and advertisers by publisher and editor, and other feedback and relationship building tools. All business as usual for large publishers, but probably only haphazardly employed by small publishers and site owners.

  16. Alina Maßat says:

    It´s a very interesting theme and a simple answer of many questions

  17. webmaster says:

    HCL ISD is known as the pioneer of Offshore Remote Infrastructure Management market in India and is today the leader in this field. The National Stock Exchange (NSE), our first IMS deal, involves managing the IT Infrastructure for Asia’s largest stock exchange, has instilled a strong DNA of “Real Time Operations” in HCL ISD’s ethos

  18. eventscout says:

    Interesting theme. Does anyone knew any other campaigns like this?

  19. Onlineshop Mode says:

    What they’re not perhaps acknowledging is the strength of your point which is that only by knowing the audience and the advertiser (i.e. a publisher’s two main customers) can the publisher/site owner do an effective job of crafting editorial/content that is highly in tune with the needs of both, and content which itself reflects the nature of, and indeed admitted conciousness of that relationship.

  20. Branchen says:

    Very interesting to read – even after so long time!

  21. Partnersuche says:

    Thanks, i was desperately looking for that info!, great article covering some points I really needed, some good usability info for.

  22. odaları says:

    Thanks, i was desperately looking for that info!, great article covering some points I really needed, some

  23. Toner Druckerpatronen says:

    Great article. I think the most save method is paying per click. So you pay what you get.

  24. Darmowe gry says:

    This article is very interesting and written by some clever guy.:) Thank you!

  25. sohbet says:

    We have designed sites without the no-follow tag, and in the end, a moderated comment system rewards good posters and helps promote more interaction with your site by visitors. Thanks.

  26. Is this simply a matter of a publisher feeling disintermediated? Reading this posting reminds of the complaints of other disintermediated professions… insurance agents, real estate brokers, travel agents, recruiters, etc. They argue that there will be something special lost if they are removed from the process and yet so often they are hard pressed to define the specialness. You say “my readers enjoyed the ads nearly as much as the editorial, because the ads served them, seemed to understand who they were in relat