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Perspective: Hey, Publishers, Put Down the AdSense Crack Pipe

by Jeff Molander

“... the business of search is destroying the advertising business—and content publishers are unaware they are active accomplices in their own demise.”

Via MediaPost, Ari Rosenberg argues, in a most convincing and impassioned way, that publishers must stop supporting a business they’re not in: performance-based contextual search (i.e. Google AdSense, Yahoo’s YPN, etc.).  What should they do?  Get back to the rather difficult (read: it doesn’t scale as easily) business of selling advertising.

That’s right… Google AdSense isn’t advertising according to Rosenberg.  Before you get all crazy, hear him out:

“Like a Trojan horse, search continues to inject a direct-marketing principle into the business of advertising. Search shouts ‘No action, no charge’ to advertisers because in part, they did not invest of themselves in producing the content assets that corral the consumer attention advertisers seek.  They just built a better way (but not the only way) to find what you, the publisher, created.”

He goes on…

“Advertising is like a construction business, only instead of buildings, it is tasked to build brands (many say advertising must sell products, but my assertion is that without a brand you have little to sell, and a ‘bigger brand’ allows you to charge more when your product or service is purchased).”

Wholly cow.  Yet Rosenberg’s brilliance and thought-provoking reasoning doesn’t stop there.  Get ready, affiliate marketers.  This one is for you… and I’m sure my respected publishing colleague, Michelle Madhok (CEO of Shefinds.com) will have something to say about this.

“The consumer attention publishers cement with the content they produce forms a foundation advertisers must acquire for these gut feelings to occur. Publishers must charge for this ‘material’—which means that every impression an advertiser makes, regardless of the size of the advertiser, the size of the ad or the response of the consumer, must be paid for.”

And on the subject of return on investment, he makes a sensible plea that has, historically speaking, fallen on deaf ears given the direct-response nature of the only thing that seems to matter to advertisers today—the search industry.

“Search and ROI are synonymous, which makes sense in the direct marketing business but is a nightmare for content publishers who sell advertising. I read a recent column that insisted publishers should focus further on their advertisers’ ROI. What about the publisher’s ROI? Way too much responsibility for advertisers’ ROI is placed on the shoulders of publishers selling online advertising, and not enough is placed on the ad creative.”

What does the future look like?  Rosenberg isn’t pinning much hope on click fraud forcing advertisers to wake up… although he says it would help the situation.  What’s a self-respecting publisher to do?

“... as long as publishers continue to aid in the promotion of a business they are not in and worse, compete with, search will continue its dominance, while content publishers battle on, unaware they are in a fight.”

Of course, Rosenberg is very focused on the “branding” aspects of revenue generation here—and publishers being able to monetize that value.  Other issues also intersect here—such as post-impression/branding purchases.  Cam Balzer and Alan Rimm-Kaufman are all over this issue.  What’s an “offline revenue multiplier” and why do such direct response gurus make so much hooey about it?  Simply stated because they realize that search marketing, although paid for on a direct response (purchase or visit/click) influences purchases that occur outside the online realm.  More importantly, they believe (as search services providers) that this must be not only realized but appreciated by their advertiser clients.  Indeed, measured.

January 26, 2007

Interactive Business