By James Wallace Harris, Friday, December 19, 2014
This morning I found out that the legendary programming magazine, Dr. Dobbs will be ending its 38 year run at the end of 2014. The main reason for their failure is dwindling internet ad revenue. For years magazines have been failing because of competition from the internet, and many magazines have gone web only publishing. Now, we’re seeing that model for publishing failing too.
People using the internet want everything to be free, and they ignore ads. If we won’t subscribe and won’t click on ads, how will publishers pay for their online presence? When I read about Dr. Dobbs, I went researching internet advertising, and the first article I went to read, “A Dangerous Question: Does Internet Advertising Work at All?” at The Atlantic. Ironically, it required me to click four times to fight off pop-up and slide up ads. Reading on the internet now means a constant fight with avoiding ads, and even more, avoiding the temptation of click-bait seductions.
If you look a The Atlantic page, how many ads do you see? I had to consciously make an effort to count them because my brain has been conditioned to tune them out. All banner ads at the top of web pages are invisible to me, as are on-page ads. The only way they can get my attention is to block my reading and force me to read an ad. And some sites force us to watch a video. Most nice sites let us skip ads or close the pop-ups. Others don’t. If I see how many seconds I have to wait, and if it’s over ten, I close the window and give up.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that does this.
The question becomes: What happens to the internet when ad-supported revenue fails to pay for web publishing? Will all sites put up paywalls and require subscriptions?
Google makes billions off of ads, but then everyone uses Google. If I am going to respond to an ad, it’s most likely from how I see them used in search results. In fact, if I’m going to buy anything I’m going to do a Google search first to research my purchase. For most things, I make my buying decisions by customer reviews at Amazon, or sites like Angie’s List.
Maybe I am atypical. Are there millions of people out there clicking away on ads? Are there enough of these people that can finance the free web? I don’t know. I do know there’s a frenzy of ad bombardment going on, and it seems like most of the sites I do visit are escalating their efforts to get my attention. This is damn annoying. Makes me want to go back to print magazines. Actually, I subscribe to Next Issue. I get 140 magazines for $15 a month. Sure it has ads, but they are easily ignored, and they are generally more beautiful.
The reason why most of my television watching is via Netflix streaming is because I don’t have to watch ads. I pay Spotify $10 a month so I don’t have to hear ads. And it annoys the hell out of me that I’m paying more for my movie ticket and force to watch ads. One reason I got tired of DVDs was because they were forcing me to watch previews and ads.
Time is an extremely important commodity in life, and ads waste a lot of our precious time. And sadly, 99.99% of all the ads I do end up watching have no relationship to what I want or need. I can’t really believe advertising is an effective means to acquire customers, but obviously I’m wrong. TV, radio, the internet, magazines, newspapers, sports, etc. are all ad driven businesses.
Yet, I’m not sure if they work on me. Do they work on you?
What if science tells advertisers exactly the best way to connect with potential customers that’s highly efficient. Will all inefficient forms of advertising disappear? Companies have known since the 19th century that most of their advertising dollars are wasted, but they’ve never been sure which dollars were well spent. What happens if they do find out?