Here's the current landscape as I see it:
--The fill rates an ad network can accomodate vary, but I'm seeing a dramatic drop (one network is currently providing only 30% fill rate!)
--The cpm rates are laughable for at least 75% of the market right now
--The quality of ads on some networks are downright scary (sneaky popups, malware), it's a full time job staying on top of it so the crap doesn't sneak thru
--Ad networks are generally SLOOOOOW...and pull down your pages loading time in the process--this is now a concern with seo
My take on the situation: The networks are too full of bloat (both on the publisher and advertiser side of things). Too many crap publishers syphoning off paying ads (and lowering the CPM value because of response rates), too many crap advertisers paying peanuts to cripple/seize up sites. Every network wants to be BIG BIG BIG and they're burning the building down around them in the process.
I like the thought of ad exchanges and bidding markets that bring advertisers and publishers together (like openx and doubleclick for example)...however, there's no quality control. One minute you see an ad for a fortune 500 company on the site, the next...you can't access it because it's cripped with malware or a popup storm served from a deviant advertiser. Visitors just LOOOOOVE that sort of thing.
Adsense--out of the question. I can't bring myself to do business with a company that says: we can't tell you the % your cut is...but trust us...really...we'll be fair...honest. WTH? What company could ever get away with that in any type of reality? Call me stubborn and stupid, but it is what it is for me.
So I've been thinking, I have a site:
--200k+ banner imps available per day (60k-70k pageviews/3 ad spots)
Big enough to make some decent cash, not big enough to work with premium ad handlers who demand 25 million - 100 million pageviews a month before they'll consider working with you (I already begged).
Although my traffic isn't mainstream huge, I think it's possibly enough that it would be worthwhile to contract someone to handle direct sale advertising for me. And I don't mean c&p network code on my pages...I mean hiring a real go-getter who can shake up and pursue direct ad sales that are decent quality and decent CPM.
Possibility: Maybe approaching a few sites that are comparable to mine (without being direct competitors), to beef up inventory and make us an easier sell. Choose similar traffic, similar content channel so that sales are focused on one channel. Keep things small enough one person can handle it all but large enough to attract some big ad buys (while ensuring a good quality inventory).
--Does anyone have any advice on pursuing this?
--What type of person/qualifications am I looking for?
--Is what I'm looking for a media buyer or ad broker or what?
--Are there experienced freelance people out there that do this sort of thing?
--What's the typical commission I can expect to pay?
--Any issues I should prepare for?
I'd appreciate any feedback and advice you can offer :)