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It's not an either/or choice. You can do AdSense and sell ad space directly to those who want to buy. Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes.
If you have a website that attracts the kind of visitors advertisers desire then it's a no brainer to think of different ways to serve advertisers that will be profitable for you and them. It all starts with an Advertising page and lots of ads throughout your site advertising the fact that you accept advertising. It's a no brainer as long as your site visitors are valuable.
If you are thinking about selling ad space to totaly replace Adsense then you may well be in for a tough time. I'm not saying it can't be done, I am simply suggesting it would be a difficult task.
Attracting advertisers is something that takes time, and it is also very likely to be a long term on-going opperation. If you look at the type of ads Google Adsense is serving, you will notice they aren't always long term, advertisers tend to come and go depending on their marketing needs and requirements.
Even if you are able to make a bit more CPC than Adsense (not always likely) you need to remember that it took time to sell the ads and time is money. You need to ballence one off against the other and work out if you are getting a good return on your time investment.
What You can do, and this might be a good starting point is use a self service system whereby advertisers can create an account and pay a deposit and run their own ads. There are loads of commerical scripts out there that will enable this. It's by no means certain to make money, but at least you are giving potential advertisers the chance to advertise direct with you.
While the bulk of the company's spend remains on TV, Mr. Friendly said in a conference with reporters that it has begun to see significantly higher return on digital investment. General Mills has been diverting funds online, driving traffic to recipe sites such as BettyCrocker.com. The company's cooking sites had about 8 million visitors last month. General Mills also recently launched a free Betty Crocker iPhone application, which offers meal suggestions based on what's in a consumer's pantry.
"We are seeing very high returns from digital than broadcast," Mr. Friendly said, declining to give the percentage of spending that's moved online. "It's not that our TV ads don't work, but when you're watching TV you're doing it for a different reason. When you go to a website you have a very specific purpose."
With OpenX and Google Ad Manager offering systems to manage your web site ads for you, it's more practical than ever. I think the investment we are seeing in these hosted ad managing system is one more signal that more webmasters are asking the question you are asking.