Web advertising metrics are good for the advertiser but terrible for the web in general. Are advertisers killing the web in ways that are rarely mentioned?
More and more well established print magazines are giving up their paper incarnations and becoming web-based and this new world comes as something of a shock. Rather than the full page full colour advertising that used to pay the print bills they are now looking for revenue from animated banner ads and click-through panels. However, Internet publishing uses a different measure of effective advertising, one that is quite unlike that found in paper publishing.
The Internet uses a page impression metric and a click-through metric, both of which are wholly more logical and harsh than the traditional measures. Page impressions are simply a measure of how many pages have been read. How many pages of a paper magazine did anyone read enough to record a page impression? Of say the 40 editorial pages of a typical niche magazine my guess is that the average reader managed five and the rest at best were filed away for future use. What this means is that page impressions are a hard task master compared to sales figures.
Suppose we sell or have an audited circulation of 20,000 copies, which is enough to suggest to the traditional advertiser that it is worth buying full page ads for thousands of dollars, then this is roughly equivalent to 100,000 page impressions per month. The point is that a website with 100,000 page impressions per month isn't particularly impressive from an advertising point of view and would be lucky to earn $100 in similar page impression monitored advertising.
Now consider the click through rate as the ultimate measure of advertising effectiveness. The traditional magazine probably manages less than the Internet's 0.1% typical response rate to any advertisement. So from our 20,000 magazine copies an advertiser will get around 100 responses. This makes the cost-per-click in the region of $10 or more. Similar figures for the website with the same number of page impressions would give a cost-per-click of much less than $0.50. By this measure Internet advertising is very quantifiable and very cheap.
There is another interesting point to notice. In the Internet's case the low cost-per-click with a total bill of the order of $50 has also delivered 100,000 page impressions for free. This is a very cheap way to get brand exposure and build a name that the end user will remember even if they didn't click.
The current situation is that a website that is the equivalent of a niche magazine cannot hope to yield the same revenue and this is killing off interesting projects. Look around the web and see the dead and discarded wrecks of websites long abandoned - now you know why. It isn't because they were boring or ill conceived just that they could not make ends meet.
By the new metrics traditional print media was an abysmal failure from the point of view of advertising success, but they were never brought to account for their failings. Today the average website is held to a different and much harsher deal. A web site costs the same to populate with high quality content as a paper magazine and it is no surprise that even big publishers like news corporation are having to charge for access to their content. Users are as unwilling to pay for content even more than they are unwilling to click a banner ad - something has to change or the web will become solely the province of the fanatic and the amateur.
Advertising never worked as well as it was supposed to but now we have its measure.
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