Ethan Zuckerman’s recent post, What if they stop clicking? points out the difficulty of building a business on ad revenue. He points to statistics that show fewer readers are clicking banner and arguments from the web advertising industry about how un-clicked ads still build brand awareness.
It’s not really central to Zuckerman’s point, but I didn’t sense that he was aware that Google has picked up the same argument. I commented on the post that Google has started reporting the numbers of people who are presented (but don’t click) ads, then later visit the advertisers that are paying for, um, clicks.
On the one hand this is probably supposed to make advertisers feel better about spending the money, on the other hand, I can imagine Google finding a way to charge for those visits too.
Zuckerman seems to genuinely doubt that advertising can support anything other than search engines, and he may be right. The internet itself is the enemy of ad supported business models. Old newspapers were discarded, but old web pages get new ads for every visitor. Given the number of places an ad can run (and the thousands of new pages Demand Studios pumping out each day), there’s no way to create the scarcity that made print ads so valuable. Meanwhile, the abundance of content on the web forces us to develop the very skills we use to ignore ads and other irrelevant material.
Aside: Google, please consider de-ranking eHow and other Demand Studios properties. Their content was frustrating before I understood how evil their model was, now it’s worse.