of hand-wringing about advertising on the net and how to make it work. But the articles I’ve read lately, such as one entitled Web Ads Should Be Seen and Heard in Wired News today, miss the point.
The web is not a broadcasting medium. Period. You can try all you like to import methods from broadcasting and make them work on the web, but as soon as the technique quits being a novelty, it’s dead in my opinion.
The web is narrowcasting. The whole internet is narrowcasting. Look at WAP and other celphone tech – its usage pales in comparison to SMS – a one-to-one technology. It’s practically axiomatic that if a person can increase the granularity of their experience, she or he will do so.
What does this mean for web advertising? To me it means a couple things. First, that if you’re going to advertise, you have to engage in “deep targeting” – putting ads in front of lawyers (for instance) isn’t enough – you have to specify by location, specialty, maybe age/experience level, etc. Don’t advertise to doctors in general – advertise to particular specialties or sub-specialties. Second, and it springs from the first, you have to give that group a payoff. Give them something they want or need – say, educational material they couldn’t otherwise gain access to. You can’t do that without knowing the audience.
It strikes me that very very few companies are remotely equipped to do that – and further that an advertiser really has to buy into the vision, the whole concept. Which can be difficult, given the current climate. But I would turn away a potential advertiser if they weren’t willing to work with me to develop a program that provided a genuine payoff to the users that I have painstakingly attracted – were I at the helm of a content site.