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The web is more like the yellow pages than a magazine or a newspaper. It's more like a phone than TV and radio.
The smart players on the web have figured this out. Google is targeting tighter and tighter. There is less and less serendipity. You get what you are looking for from search, you hear from who you want to on email and you read about what you want to read about on the news. And that's it.
And that's great.
Except that the vast majority of marketing (over 80 percent) is about talking to you about something you are not thinking about. You're happy with your beer? No, you are not, and we want to talk about it! Don't need a new car? Yes, you do and we want to explain why. Sex life OK? Ha, you don't know what you're missing...
While this is accepted about marketing, what many (i.e., me) have not realized is that journalism is same. You want the scores from last night's game? OK, but read about war, too. You want the comics? Fine, but there was a fire on the other side of the city you need to know about. Looking for election results? Here they are, and did you know that there is a flu outbreak in the area?
The real estate on the computer screen can have room for all of the marketing messages and journalism that make up a community, but users seldom use it in that way and I don't think they're going to approach their laptops like a newspaper any time soon--if ever. The computer allows the user to be in complete control, for better or for worse. For most (but certainly not all) marketers and journalists, it's worse.
So, bye to the web biz. It has been <ahem> interesting. Many of you are doing wonderful, worthwhile work. As a user, I appreciate it. And I hope you get paid what you deserve for your efforts.
Me? I'm going back to print full time starting May 1. Ya'll be good and take care of yourself--no one else will.
A system like Tacoda's new behaviorally targeted ad network AudienceMatch (or aQuantive's new DRIVEpm) is what I have been offering to online news operations. I only offered highly targeted contextual matching, but it could be linked into demographic data where the web site had it.
Tacoda Systems and aQuantive have discovered what I have found--the publishers will not build and market this, they've got to build it themselves AND sell the PPC ads, too, vis a via Google Adsense.
Not me, babe.
Yellow Pages in real life gets about a dollar per inquiry. Overture reports about 30 cents. And it's going to be interesting to see if you can determine what Google averages per click from their financial filings. Not much, I'd bet. G knows it is a volume biz. That's not just G's business plan, that's the nature of the net.
From what I have seen only the top dozen or so news web sites in the U.S. are making any money at all, and they're really not getting much a return on their investment. (CNN.com--number one or two on most lists-- has flatly said this is their case.) Tacoda and aQuantive are on the right track, IF it will work at all. (Despite their chat about PPC, this is about branding.) Again, I'm not sure they can get the volume to make their investment back.
So ads don't work, subscriptions don't work on the web. I tried and failed. I'm out of ideas. I'm out of the way so someone else can try.
From what I have seen only the top dozen or so news web sites in the U.S. are making any money at all, and they're really not getting much a return on their investment.
Neither did newspapers in the beginning. The web is young. There's a lot of room for improvement.
CIB, I think you are hoping to be drawn back into the web, otherwise, why tell us you are quitting? The web needs pioneers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and make it worth something. There's not a lot of money in that process. However, it will be great to look back one day and say, "I helped shape the web."
I'd say good luck, but you'll be back. ;-)