Taking the ad plunge
This caught my eye:
in last Monday’s New York Times. It was just a little article but it contained an important message: “Internet users are increasingly reluctant to click” on display ads. “That is bad news for the hosting Web sites,” including blogs, the article said.
Advertising has, of course, been the Holy Grail of blogs that hope to generate revenue, since the vast majority of them cannot hope to persuade enough people to pay for subscriptions. And between subscriptions and ads, how else can a blog make money?
The article cited as its source of information an Oct. 1 press release from a company, comScore, which describes itself as “a global leader in measuring the digital world and the preferred source of digital marketing intelligence.” comScore conducted a survey and found that “the number of people who click on display ads in a month has fallen from 32 percent of Internet users in July 2007 to only 16 percent in March 2009.” (Speaking for myself, my click-through score is a perfect zero.) “The act of clicking on a display ad is experiencing rapid attrition in the current digital marketplace,” said a comScore VP.
Well, I can understand that. I do my best to ignore ads online, the same way that, when I watch TV, I switch the remote as soon as a commercial comes on. Hate that stuff.
The comScore study made some assumptions. It may be that a display ad works even if nobody bothers to click on it, because just seeing the brand name or logo registers in the mind, making it more likely that the viewer will eventually buy the product. This is, indeed, “the manner in which traditional advertising has been measured for decades using reach and frequency metrics.” Which explains why there are so many billboards on major roads.
I guess that generations of Mad Men have proof that exposure to a visual icon works, but I wonder, if the click rate continues to decline — and why wouldn’t it? –will companies continue to place ads on blogs? The argument in favor is that it’s so cheap to do so, they might as well. And there is no argument against. On the other hand, with the click rate so low, then so will the ad rates be that bloggers are able to charge. And if the bloggers are depending on money from click-through sales, they’re bound to be disappointed.
I could put lots of ads up on my blog. The number of viewers I get is quite high. I’ve considered it, and I sure could use the extra money. The reason I don’t is because (a) the rates are so low that it’s hardly worth the effort, and (b) my blog has a certain credibility that might get eroded if I were to take ads. I haven’t entirely ruled it out, though. If I could make thousands a month in ads, I’d probably take my chances, and write a passionate apologia to readers, explaining that an ad for, say, a wine club whose wines I review for Wine Enthusiast has no influence on my ratings for those wines, which would be the truth. Some people might not believe it; others would. That’s life.
Anyhow, with clicks nose-diving and rates mired in the basement, I have no reason to consider making any changes. But I wonder how people would react if I took the ad plunge. After all, just about every other blog has.