Monday, March 23, 2009

Post 2.0 Web advertising: make it up in volume

For those wondering what I have been doing in the long periods between posts on this blog, I have been spending just about all my time on FanFooty, my original startup which is now over four years old and finally looking like making a go of it. Traffic is projected at about 2 million page impressions per week for the upcoming AFL season, so I have a lot of ad inventory to fill.

I recently switched ad providers from Google AdSense to Platform 9, a division of ninemsn which runs a video ad platform and an auction-based display ad serving system as well. At the start of this year, as many Web publishers will know, CPMs (cost per thousand page impressions, i.e. the amount of money I make from ads per thousand times a page is viewed) went into the toilet in a huge amount of sectors. The Australian sport sector was no different. I look back at my 2007 CPMs and can only feel depressed about the numbers from all the providers I have tried in 2009.

Of course, the simple economics of supply and demand have dictated much of the collapse of CPMs for Web publishers. Supply of ad inventory has increased markedly in recent times, particularly by social media sites who have destroyed entire sectors by flooding them with low quality inventory. Demand has also dried up, as can be evidenced by looking at my own numbers, which were decimated (under the now-archaic meaning of dropping to 10% of their previous levels) at the turn of the year as new quarterly budgets came into effect with far fewer bids for major keywords.

Today was a big day for FanFooty because we turned on our first ad campaign from Betfair, which is our first major direct advertisement sale. It seems every large or small football-related media site in Australia has developed a partnership with one of the new breed of gambling providers, and we are no different.

I was looking at Duncan Riley's site The Inquisitr today, and couldn't help but feel as if I have been missing out. The Inq had seven ad units on its story pages: three from Google, one from Technorati Media and three that pointed to other servers I didn't recognise. Meanwhile, I have been stuck at FanFooty with the AdSense-encouraged three-unit policy since the site was established. Am I the idiot for not getting with the new program? This is what I was thinking: the obvious solution for publishers who are getting crappier CPMs per ad unit is to spam the units as much as the page will allow, and maybe more. The page looks less classy, and readability suffers, but is that what "pros" like Duncan have realised long before deadshits like me?

I'm not sure I want to be like the Fairfaxes of this world. I have blogged here before about their ridiculously high ad rates, though I suspect they haven't got anywhere near their listed CPMs for a while now. The RealFooty home page has seven ad units also, albeit two of them being tiny ones for BigPond, and their story pages have fully 12 units, including three for their own gambling partner, plus a Google box and two other text link ad boxes. Meanwhile, News Ltd's Superfooty home page has five units, all huge, and just four on its story pages, also including one Google unit.

My instinct has always been primarily as a journalist, whereby I have left room for three standard ads on each page and hoped that the ad agencies could deliver enough CPM that I didn't have to worry about it. In these recessionary times, that is probably not enough, and I should be thinking more like a publisher, not an editor. Do I have to hit the corporate carpets and sell sponsorships myself? Would the dinky little units here and there get in the way of the user experience? Would FanFooty cease to be something the fans enjoy if there were a dozen freakin' ad units on every blog entry?

I believe strongly in the distasteful effect of "kipple", the crap that tends to accumulate on a Web site as it ossifies. I do not want to put 12 ads on a page on FanFooty. Any more than three or four starts my eyebrows twitching as I hear the words of Jakob Nielsen, not to mention Strunk & White. The new desperation of large publishing companies spamming their users with ads seems counter-productive in the long term.

Then again, I do need to eat. :(


Anonymous Chunkstyle said...

Take the money and run.

11:17 pm, March 26, 2009  
Blogger Kevin Leversee at said...

Hey Mate- Do what you can to make money- but also I would do some serious brainstorming on other ways to make money- events- swag-(tshirts) fun stuff- yea Microblogging does tend to take over blogging...

11:50 pm, March 26, 2009  

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