Tag Archives: advertising

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad « Observatory

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad « Observatory: “But — while this spot can be seen as uplifting and inspirational, it can also be seen as incredibly pretentious. One must admit, it’s a bit of intellectual overkill for those who just want to do their email, surf and shop — which probably covers most of the tablet-buying public.”

(Via Ken Segall.)

That, in a nutshell, is exactly Apple’s problem with the iPad. People think it’s an email, surf, and shop machine. If it continues to be just that, the iPad is never going to meet Apple’s expectations. Thus, the “loftier” ad approach of the Verses series.

People raved about the Misunderstood iPhone commercial over Christmas, but I actually think these spots are much more important to Apple’s long-term future. Thanks to Apple’s misguided driving of the App Store into Crazy Eddie’s Discount Bonanza, people are losing sight of just how powerful a tablet can be. They clamor for a “bigger” iPhone, because they figure that would do just about everything they do on their iPads well enough to no longer need an iPad. And that’s certainly not good for Apple.

Sure, the message is lofty, and maybe it only appeals to Apple’s current customers. But those customers aren’t getting as much out of their iPads as they deserve. Sometimes you need to start with a lofty message to reaffirm your core values. Sometimes you have to remind people that you’re trying to improve people’s lives.

If Apple wants to continue selling iPads, it needs to carve out a space where the iPad is seen as essential to the things we want to create, not just a luxury toy for watching movies on a plane.

Dumping the Yellow Pages on Your Doorstep is a Protected Right

Appeals court rules against Seattle’s curbs on yellow pages | Local News | The Seattle Times: “The court ruled the city’s law is unconstitutional, saying yellow pages are protected, like other publications, by the First Amendment.

‘Although portions of the directories are obviously commercial in nature, the books contain more than that, and we conclude that the directories are entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment,’ Judge Richard Clifton wrote in the decision. ‘As a result, when we evaluate the ordinance under strict scrutiny, it does not survive.’”

(Via. the Seattle Times)

The huge thing that bugs me about a story like this is not all the legal issues involved. I actually agree with the court’s finding in principle. It’s the notion that you have a group of people who clearly don’t want these books, and yet the Phone-book companies want to shove them on their doorsteps, anyway. I mean, once someone tells you point blank they are completely uninterested in your product, what is the point of shoving it down their throat? You’re not going to make any money off these people. You’re going to waste your own money printing a book that immediately gets trashed. So why would you give it to them, and pay a lawyer do defend your right to do so?

This is the problem with advertising as a business model. All the stats are based on the number of “eyeballs” rather than the effectiveness of the ads themselves. Reach the maximum number of people, period. Don’t worry if you’re offering breast implants to men or Viagra to women. Just reach people, because at best you’re going to convert on 1 or 2 percent of them. The money comes from total people who saw the ad, not the percentage of those who actually bought the product as a result.

This was the problem that Google’s promise of “targeted” ads was supposed to solve. But it hasn’t. At the end of the day, all the targeting in the world doesn’t pay as well as good old fashioned dumb carpet bombing of the entire universe. 

Sad, really.

Not Quite Dead, but at least Diminishing

Death of the Free Web | Cap Watkins: “I’ve actually been noticing this transition in SV for the past year or so. More and more startups are focusing on revenue right out of the gate. The old way of trying to build gigantic user-bases and then sell their eyeballs to advertisers is falling by the wayside. There are certainly still exceptions, but right now they are just that – exceptions. Seeing a startup go after paying customers used to be like catching a glimpse of a unicorn. Now, it’s the status quo. But why?”

(Via. capwatkins.com)

Great piece here by Cap Watkins. Be sure to read it in full at the above link.

Sooo glad to see this trend. This whole Silicon Valley disease of fooling people into thinking everything in life should be free has been driving me nuts for decades. 

But the free web won’t die, unfortunately. It’s like a zombie–keeps rising up from time to time no matter how much you try and kill it. I have no doubt that this ad-supported nonsense will come back around. It cycles. It’s just too tempting for the handfuls of people who stand to get rich from the advertising model, and they’re very good bullshit artists. But the current cycle is winding down on ads, at least, and that makes me happy, at least for another year or two. 

As I keep joking, I’m looking forward to the traffic and rent prices coming back down to reasonable levels here in the Bay Area soon.

We’re discovering that you can’t create that sort of passion with free.

His example of Uber cab is an excellent one. Services that set out to solve a real-world problem don’t need to be free. People throw money at trying to solve problems all the time. And they’re happy to do so. And they become very loyal to services they pay for, in a way that they’ll never be loyal to Facebook or Twitter. Uber, Zipcar, Kickstarter, Square. These are the startups of today, and hopefully tomorrow.

Christopher Breen’s Busking Experiment

Busking in the age of the Internet – TechHive Beta Blog: “The reaction was… interesting. Although no one took me to task or, as far as I can tell, unfollowed me over it, the contributions didn’t pour in. As I write this—fewer than 24-hours after my initial pitch—my $200 contribution has been matched but not much more. The 12 people who kicked in were nearly all strangers to John and myself rather than friends or people In The Biz. Also interesting was that none of my pitches were retweeted.”

(Via. Tech Hive Beta Blog)

This was an interesting experiment. As one of the 12 contributors, I can add that my decision to go ahead and kick in some cash to John was not motivated out of a sense of charity. I had been reading John’s blog for a while, on the advice of John Gruber, who had pointed it out in his feed a while back, and I liked what I had read so far. But I was unaware he even had a donation button on his site or that he was attempting to make a go with writing full time. So when another writer I admire, Chris Breen, pointed this out, it only made sense that I kick in a few bucks to help the guy out. I’m a big believer in paying for things I like. I hate the entire ad-sponsored Internet. So if I’m given the opportunity to support good content with some direct cash, I almost always do that.

Otherwise, I’d be a hypocrite, wouldn’t I?

If John were to set up a regular subscription, the way Jim Dalrymple over at the loop has, or Marco Arment has done with Instapaper, or Shawn Blanc, etc. I’d probably be a regular contributor.

Maybe I’m weird. I’m definitely in the minority, based on this experiment. But I almost always have a few bucks to toss to someone who is trying to bust out of the cubicle world. If you’re providing a quality product, and I’m consuming it on a regular basis, why wouldn’t I want that to continue?

Facebook and the State of Web Advertising

The Facebook Fallacy – Technology Review:

“The daily and stubborn reality for everybody building businesses on the strength of Web advertising is that the value of digital ads decreases every quarter, a consequence of their simultaneous ineffectiveness and efficiency. The nature of people’s behavior on the Web and of how they interact with advertising, as well as the character of those ads themselves and their inability to command real attention, has meant a marked decline in advertising’s impact. “

(Via technologyreview.com.)

What a great read. This could have been written eleven years ago, just before the first dot com bubble burst.

Everything hums along great for a while, sure. And a few people get rich every time. But for the vast majority of people, the notion that web advertising is sustainable as your sole source of income long term is just silly. The inside players in the Valley know this; they just don’t want everyone else to figure that out until it’s too late.

Facebook may very well come up with some master stroke, some bold new idea to start making a sustainable business in the long term. But thus far we haven’t seen any real evidence of that.

Twitter gives the lowdown on its new business model | Social Media | Macworld

There will be two “pillars” to Twitter’s business model, Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo said at the company’s Chirp developer conference in San Francisco. The first, announced earlier this week, is Promoted Tweets, which lets advertisers pay for sponsored tweets that appear at the top of search results for certain keywords.

I don’t know. Seems like the classic old “bait and switch” to me. Very few companies have gotten away with giving a service away for free, and then suddenly changing it to either a paid service, or an ad-based service. It seems like they are going about it carefully, only adding ads for search results so far, but it’s only a matter of time before we all start seeing ads in all our feeds. It’s a slippery slope, and some people are bound to reject this idea.

I wonder if Twitter plans on adding ads to Tweetie, now that it has purchased the app from Atebits. I sure hope not.

The only question is what other free service will step in and take those disgruntled users from Twitter? I can hear the wheels spinning in garages all over the Silicon Valley right now.

Commercial accounts could work, provided that companies can get people to follow them. At least if the ads are “opt-in”, users won’t be so quick to feel betrayed.

This is the classic Internet Startup problem all over again. We really haven’t learned anything from the original Dot Com bubble burst.

Is there really no room left in the world for a company that simply charges a fair price for its services from the get go?

Online Ads: Failing again

My argument is simple: blocking ads can be devastating to the sites you love. I am not making an argument that blocking ads is a form of stealing, or is immoral, or unethical, or makes someone the son of the devil. It can result in people losing their jobs, it can result in less content on any given site, and it definitely can affect the quality of content. It can also put sites into a real advertising death spin. As ad revenues go down, many sites are lured into running advertising of a truly questionable nature. We’ve all seen it happen. I am very proud of the fact that we routinely talk to you guys in our feedback forum about the quality of our ads. I have proven over 12 years that we will fight on the behalf of readers whenever we can. Does that mean that there are the occasional intrusive ads, expanding this way and that? Yes, sometimes we have to accept those ads. But any of you reading this site for any significant period of time know that these are few and far between. We turn down offers every month for advertising like that out of respect for you guys. We simply ask that you return the favor and not block ads.

Man, does Ars completely miss the boat in this article. Their argument is basically that people who use ad blockers are effectively stealing food out of their kids’ mouths. What their little experiment SHOULD have taught them instead is that they need to find a better way to fund their content.

If a user turns on an ad blocker, that is a clear gesture that he or she is not interested in devoting his or her attention to an ad. It’s like screening marketing phone calls with an answering machine, or turning on a spam filter in an email program. “I am not interested.”

Rather than listening to that clear message, Ars is instead trying to guilt trip its users into caring about something they don’t care about. And they are trying to scam revenue out of their advertisers for ads that are obviously not getting anyone’s attention.

Begging people to turn off their ad blockers is actually immoral on Ars’ part, because they are asking us to help them lie to their advertisers.

I understand fully that content is not free; people who create great content deserve to be paid for that content. So make that argument. Apple does this very effectively with the iTunes store. I gladly pay $2.00 for an episode of the Daily Show with no ads. Other people prefer to watch it on Hulu for no payment, but with ads. Each of us is making a separate statement. Each of is willing to pay, one with money, the other with attention.

It’s not about free vs. paid. It’s about gaining your users’ trust.

Now, read this excellent post from Shawn Blanc, as well as the other posts linked in his post. (http://shawnblanc.net/2010/03/attention-trust-and-advertising/) This is a perfect demonstration of how to respect your reader’s gestures, and how to make money by listening to your users in a way that is honest to your readers, yourself, and your advertisers.

If all this talk of ads sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been through this before. Remember the first dot com bubble? It burst because at long last few companies had figured out a way to make money on the Web. They had all bet the farm on Internet Ads, and eventually, companies figured out that Internet ads were essentially worthless. Well, guess what? Nothing has changed in the decade that has passed since. Ads are still essentially worthless. They’re actually worth even less than before, because ads are now cheaper, which means we need to have a lot more of them, which drives the price of each one down, and so on. It’s a vicious circle, spiraling toward failure.

What does this all mean? A second dot com bubble? You bet.

If there’s one company that should be worried right now about this, it should be Google. No one wants to say it, but Google is essentially a one-trick pony. It has bet the farm on ads to a larger degree than any of the original dot com era companies. When the eventual bottom drops out of the ad business online for the second time, what exactly is Google going to do? Start charging for GMail? Wave? Buzz?

Good luck with that.

You simply can’t give something away for free for a time, and then start charging for it later and expect people not to feel betrayed by that. Offer your content for a fair price in the first place, and users will either gladly pay, or go elsewhere. You’ll never grab the whole world that way, but the people who you do get will follow you into the gates of hell, because they will trust you and respect you.