First let me address two issues that have been discussed on Slashdot
just recently on Micropayments
instead of ads and
Ad banners may soon get bigger and how these issues pertain to
ad banners on the OSDN sites.
Why run ad banners? What about a tip-jar, or subscription
fees, or micropayments, or donations, or bill-the-ISPs instead of ad banners?
When you're running a web site, depending on your content, your
audience, the size of your staff, your overhead costs, the size and nature
of your audience, and many other factors, it might be possible to get
by on just subscription fees, or micropayments, or some other
revenue model that does not involve selling banner ads. But the size of
the audience on OSDN's web sites and the nature of the content within is such
that the subscription models break down. For a network of
this size and content ad banners are the only realistic way to cover costs and
hopefully earn a little profit (someday we hope). Another way of
looking at it is to ask yourself why does Yahoo, CNet, and ZDNet
still rely on banner ads? Because for a web sites that have a lot of traffic no one has
proven that there is a better way to earn more revenue with less
overhead. In any large media company, advertising is it. Even with print
magazines the subscription fees and cover prices don't come close
to covering the costs for a large circulation magazine: the subscription
fees and cover price is just a barrier-of-entry to assure the advertisers
that the readership paid to read the content and therefore is the right
audience to see their ads.
....but ad banners don't work! There's too many ad filters now days!
Yes, a lot of people, even entire ISPs, have ad filters and proxy rules
to block out banner ads but even still there are plenty enough
ad impressions delivered every day. In fact those who filter ads are
doing web publishers and advertisers a favor by making sure that no
time, bandwidth, or impressions are wasted on people who definately
will not respond to any kind of ad. So please, filter the ads out if
you feel that strongly about it, in fact, I'll pitch you some
ideas further on in this article in which our ad system could help
you filter out the ads which is why I'm posting this.
...but too many people ignore banner ads, and nobody clicks on
them! Advertising sucks! Free your head! Prioritize, man!
Yes, many people, including myself, scroll right past banner ads and
ignore them completely. But chances are you did glance at many of the
ads in a web given page, perhaps you saw a logo or brand name. In that
sense the ad delivered just what it intended. It's called "branding": advertising
for the sake of increased brand recognition and its most of what large
advertisers hope for when advertsing in any medium including the
web. Smaller advertisers will obsess over response to each ad, whether
that be a click, or even a sale, and thus they become very unhappy
when the click-thru is not to their satisfaction. So just because
click-thru percentages are low across the board doesn't mean Internet
advertising is doomed, but rather advertisers expectations and ad pricing schemes
are changing accordingly. The smallest fish in the pond may be doomed
but the pond remains.
What can we expect from OSDN web sites as far as ad banners? Bigger
fatter ads? More ads per page? Flashing noisy ads that will read my
browser cache and report all suspicous keywords to the NSA?
As you might expect, we are debating internally what OSDN sites can do to stay
competitive in the ad banner business. Right now we are not
competitive in many areas: we only accept the most basic
ad formats, most OSDN sites only accept one ad size, our average click-thru
rate is as low as anywhere else, and our rate card prices are higher
than most. We've been able to get away with it so far because our
web sites are very well known and our audience has just the kind of
demographics advertisers drool over, but lately its become a buyers
market, the ad budgets are drying up and the few big advertisers still spending
online are having their way with the web publishers left groveling for
the business. It's times like these when advertisers can force
outrageous new ad formats down the throats of the web publishers, and
other web publishers are stepping up their ad offerings to entice
advertisers to their space -- it's a free market economy after all.
So what are we doing about it? First we're telling our sales people to
go after more main stream advertising accounts: entertainment, auto
makers, food and beverage, whatever we think fits our
audience. Second, we're looking at which newer ad formats and what we're
willing to accept. Third, I have to rewrite our ad delivery system to
improve our ad targeting: platform targeting, geotargeting, and topic
targeting at the very least. Along these lines I also have some ideas I
want to bounce off you there reading this here article...
Let the users control the ad delivery. User preferences. Ad
filtering. User feedback. Interactive, or as George W. would say "Interactivfulness"
Here's a few scenerios, ideas I've been pitching around:
Comment forums for each ad banner:
What if you could comment on the ad banners, such as each ad banner
has its own discussion forum? So if an ad bothers you, offends you,
confuses you, entices you, anything about that ad, you can speak and be
heard. Let's face it, many ad banners suck because nobody tells the ad
agency that the creative needs improvement. On the other hand the ad
may be messing with your browser and you just want someone to know
about it. Or maybe you wanted whatever was being advertised, you
clicked, and you still didn't get the information you were looking
for, the ad feedback forum would be the place to get a response on
Turning off annoying ads:
Suppose you become absolutely sick and tired of seeing that "Fawking
DSL!" ad or that "Punch the monkey" banner, suppose you could
click a link right next to the banner "Never show me this ad again or I
swear I will lose it and someone will have to call security." And you
just click that link and bam, you'll never see that ad again. The
number of people who turn off a particular ad could be a way of truly
knowing how counter productive certain ads are.
Choice of ad topics and categories:
What if you could select which kinds of ads you want to see, and which
kinds of ads you don't want to see? For example what if you could explicately set
your ad preferences so that you're are more about networking, movies,
gadgets, and events but you don't want to see ads for alcohol, web
design, or luxury items... and these ad preferences would apply to you
within whole OSDN network of web sites. Would we use your information
to for demographic studies? Yes absolutely, we'd tell advertisers that
we have X number of people over here who explicately told us that
they'd prefer to see ads about their kind of product. The overall
effect we won't waste our effort chasing after advertsiers that have
nothing of interest to our community and we won't waste your bandwidth
downloading ads you don't want.
What about ad system karma?
I'm thinking there could be a point-based reward system that gives you credit for
everything you do that helps our advertising business. As you
accumulate karma points in our ad system you could redeem them
gain access to an extended set of features in the ad system itself...
To increase your ad system karma you could (Hypothetical examples)
(Just assume for the sake of this disussion that this point system is
mostly immune to people running bots to accumulate points. We're still
in hypothetical land here.)
- 1 point for every time you load a paid ad
- 0 points for clicking on an ad (I don't want to encourage
excessive ad clicking)
- 50 points for loading bigger ads
- 100 points for loading a pop-up ad
- 500 points for filling out an advertiser's survey
- 100 points for loading a Flash ad
- 300 points for posting a meaningful critique on an ad
- 200 points for alerting us if an ad is broken
- 500 points for helping us test an ad before it goes live
Redeem your points to gain access to such features as
Note that this entire karma point system is just my own personal ideas and not officially sanctioned
by anyone else working here. I figured I'd bounce this off you all out
there in the audience and see how it plays with you all.
- Turn off all ads
- Upload your own ads
- Get stats on the ads you uploaded
- Specify which sites you want your ads to run on
- Whetever else anyone can think of...
How would ad system karma affect web site user karma?
It wouldn't. The ad system is totally disconnected from any web site
user database. Our ad system runs ads on many web sites, so even if we felt
compelled to tie it into the user accounts of any web site it would
be a lot of work, too much work, and I don't see any reason to even attempt
So the ad system would have its own user accounts
independant and unrelated to web site accounts. Does that complicate
things? No, the ad system user account is low maintenance,
transparent, maybe as simple as cookie, nothing too visible, not in
your face all the time nagging you to come play. The ad system preferences web
page could be one click away, simple web form, nothing too fancy.
Hey I don't like you spying on me! I'm going to wear a metal bowl on my
head and warn the others that you're all sneaky opportunist-type
people. You are one of them.
That's OK. I have my metal bowl on too. As far as these ad system
ideas go, you wouldn't need to have an ad system user account if you want
to be anonymous and outside the loop as far as the ad delivery goes that's fine. This user account
would be something you'd actively choose to create, and if you don't bother
doing so then fine, you're anonymous, unknown, you'll see the normal general rotation of
banner ads, and maybe later hopefully you'll find that out food tastes
better when you try out some of these features and take advantage of
We're a community, damnit! We're not your ad-clicking sheep! If you
can't sell ads then that's your problem! One day this web site will be
free of your commercial opportunist tryannical business, all the trolls will
leave, this site will be cool again, and then food will taste better!
These web sites have grown way beyond the realm of affordable to
operate by volunteers and donors. If OSDN and/or VA collapsed someday
then the OSDN web sites would not be simply released back into the wild but
rather be liquidated as assets to the highest bidder, and you can bet
the new owners would gladly run these sites into the ground for every
last penny they can quickly earn from them. So at least you can be glad the original founders of these web sites still work
here and they care a lot about how this web site works for you, the
community. And if we're not able
to turn a profit here despite our best efforts, whoever ends up
grabbing our helm here will most likely toss this whole crew overboard, and I can assure you
that the new crew will care far less about "community" then we ever
did. But that's not your problem anyway because there are plenty of other web sites
out there like this one, and if you log off now you may even discover
that there is whole world of amazing life outside the Internet, I don't know much about
that myself so I can't descibe it to you but I've downloaded
pictures of it. So is this as good as it gets for these web sites? No, we can do better here, and
last week resolved to be a lot more focused. We're determined not to
give Jesse Berst and his ilk any reason to gloat.
So I can't think of what else I was going to pitch here. So please
if you have feedback on any of the ideas pitched above then post them here.
Kurt Gray, OSDN, ad system engineer