The expected drop in internet advertising revenues this year was neither unpredictable nor unpredicted, nor was it caused solely by the general recession and the decline in retail sales. Internet advertising will rapidly lose its value and its impact, for reasons that can easily be understood. Traditional advertising simply cannot be carried over to the internet, replacing full-page ads on the back of The New York Times or 30-second spots on the Super Bowl broadcast with pop-ups, banners, click-throughs on side bars.
Advertising will fail for three reasons:
There are three problems with advertising in any form, whether broadcast or online:
- Consumers do not trust advertising. Dan Ariely has demonstrated that messages attributed to a commercial source have much lower credibility and much lower impact on the perception of product quality than the same message attributed to a rating service. Forrester Research has completed studies that show that advertising and company sponsored blogs are the least-trusted source of information on products and services, while recommendations from friends and online reviews from customers are the highest.
- Consumers do not want to view advertising. Think of watching network TV news and remember that the commercials on all the major networks are as closely synchronized as possible. Why? If network executives believed we all wanted to see the ads they would be staggered, so that users could channel surf to view the ads; ads are synchronized so that users cannot channel surf to avoid the ads.
- And mostly consumers do not need advertising. My own research suggests that consumers behave as if they get much of their information about product offerings from the internet, through independent professional rating sites like dpreview.com or community content rating services like Ratebeer.com or TripAdvisor
Alternative models for monetization are available:
These activities fall into three categories:
- Selling content and information, from digital music to news and information. Some of these sites are funded by subscriptions, like Gartner Research; some are by direct micropayments for purchases, like iTunes; and some currently attempt to fund themselves through advertising, like Business Week or The New York Times, while still searching for a more effective business model.
- Selling experience and participation in a virtual community, including Second Life and World of Warcraft, Facebook and MySpace, Flickr and YouTube, or LinkedIn. Not all of these have found a way to charge for participation.
- Selling accessories for virtual communities, like completed homes and stores, furnishings, clothing, and pets in Second Life or characters and accessories that would be difficult to earn in World of Warcraft, although this behavior is generally despised by serious World of Warcraft players.