Popping the Publishing Bubble

Ben Thompson:

This bifurcation in incentives has resulted in a plethora of ad networks: publishers collectively provide real estate in front of collated readers, while it is the responsibility of the ad networks to identify and track prospective customers on behalf of advertisers. Note, though, the orthogonality of this relationship: publishers and ad networks are working at cross-purposes.

The result is that ad networks don’t really care about the readers — which is a big reason Why Web Pages Suck — and on the flip-side publishers don’t really care about the advertisers, resulting in click fraud, pixel stuffing, ad stacking, and a whole host of questionable behavior that is at best on the edge of legality and absolutely not in the advertisers’ interest.

As with any other company or industry built on fundamentally misaligned incentives, this is unsustainable.

What we’re seeing this week was inevitable. A key observation on ad-blocking:

Notice that none of this depends on the adoption of ad-blockers. Indeed, ad blockers don’t really hurt advertisers that much anyways: an ad that is blocked is one that is not paid for, meaning the pain falls entirely on publishers. But, as I just noted, the truth is that advertising isn’t long for the majority of online publishing anyway.

I disagree with that last sentence. I just think online advertising as we know it — with the tracking, slow page loads, ads that cover the content, everything that could be fairly described as hostile to the reading/viewing/listening experience — isn’t going to work much longer.

Good advertising goes down easy.

Friday, 18 September 2015