Well, Twitter’s co-founder—you know, the multi-million dollar social networking site that's been around for almost 11 years—Ev Williams, thinks it might be. For people like us in the digital media and marketing industry, this is a scary thought. How could the digital media ad-supported model possibly be broken? We—and human beings of the 21st century in general—rely on it so heavily… anyone who uses the Internet or any online service does, in fact. Okay, so maybe the industry isn’t broken, per-se, but its higher-ups are definitely thinking about how it might be time to restructure its reality. Here's how.
Internet publishing is in a decline, Williams reported to one of our favorite digital news casting sites, Mashable, a few months ago. "It’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the Internet," he said. So what’s the reason behind this? It’s pretty simple. Ad-driven media doesn't serve the consumer anymore. And the worst part? Maybe it never did. Why? Let’s get into it.
Well, for starters, this kind of advertisement (like all ads,) is paid for, and that's just a lazy way of putting forth information that doesn't necessarily mean anything to the consumer. In the Inbound marketing world, we’d look first to score information on our potential customers by encouraging them to consume information they want—information they need, even. Only then would we move forward in the process of trying to gain them as a client. It’s a give and take, an entirely mutual agreement to move forward in pursuit of a partnership… a notion the digital media ad-industry should consider, perhaps.
The aforementioned Williams is the creator of Medium, one of the first self-publishing websites that really went against the grain of the dreaded ad-driven reality we all face day to day when using the web. However, that thought was from all the way back in 2012, five years ago now, and even Medium has had to resort to ads in order to bring in money.
Those first players we saw in the industry are now being disrupted by other, newer digital agencies—“there’s a lot of new school agencies that don’t claim to be creative, but turn out to do an amazing job in driving business growth through conversion optimization, SEO, SEA, affiliate marketing,” Medium reported in 2013. And this thought has only become truer.
Additionally, the good folks over at Bixy, who strive to prevail against “bad ads” much like Williams and his team at Medium, wrote something pretty interesting in an article back in November.
“The honest truth is that the prevailing model of digital advertising, of ubiquitous cheap ads, is a broken one. The incentives in this model have encouraged the worst behavior: publishers squeezing more and more ads into a cluttered space and marketers pointing to these masses of impressions and clicks as the sign of a job well done. Ads that aren’t viewable, bot-generated clicks, phantom ads across the Internet, video ads that aren’t seen or heard or both: These are all symptoms of a business model that rewards quantity over quality.”
So what’s the bone we have to pick with digital right now? Mostly, it’s the lack of customer development we’ve seen in the industry of late. Meanwhile, in the Inbound marketing industry, that’s all we strive to do: cultivate a successful, customer-centric strategy through experimentation, constant measurement of what’s working and what’s not, and adaptation. The digital world at large could really use to take a page out of the Inbound marketing book. As a conglomerate, we have to be more careful about how we evaluate success—the standard to which we hold it must be higher than the digital media world is allowing right now. Making clearer goals, like we do in Inbound, would be one way to move forward on a path to greater success. Drawing the connection between targeted audiences (focusing on who watches an ad or reads through it in its entirety, for instance), versus just the fact that the ad was simply watched or read, for example, really matters. It makes a difference. The conversion piece should only come later, when it’s certain that these potential leads (the people who watched or read), in fact fit the bill, and would therefore make good buyers.
So what do you say? Let’s all try and change the paradigm: get rid of the thoughtless ads that bombard our daily lives, and work towards something better. It’ll be worth it.
Can-Do Ideas is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales. We are located in New York City and Connecticut.