I’m a bit slow out the gate with this post and I expect you all to take whatever I say with a big ol’ grain of salt because of my new position with Yahoo. Truth is, there’s lots going on both here at Yahoo and the industry at large. Let’s take a quick rundown over the events of the past week:
No wonder we’re all out of breath! I only attended the workshops and opening day sessions but feel like I was there because I picked up on the buzz at the afterparties and have read through lots of the posts about the conference.
Two points of discussion that I wanted to highlight because I didn’t see them mentioned anywhere else.
Esther Dyson contributed and interesting riff on the variable of time and how that might impact the relevance of what an advertiser might be targeting or a search engine presenting. If someone subscribes to a feed or buys a book today, they may not continue to have that interest in the future. We all must keep in mind that behavior profiling via a clickstream may actually deceive. If someone is a starving student that likes to browse expensive car sites, does that really make them a qualified buyer to the BMW advertiser? If they did a lot of research for a new computer last month, post purchase, that may not be their interest and in fact, it may be more appropriate to target marketing messages for accessories instead of new systems.
The challenge is to build an ad network which can take feedback from it’s participants. The example I’ve been turning over in my mind is the banner ad that has a button which allows you to block future instances of ads in it’s category from every appearing again. If I’m presented with an ad for a Buick Lacrosse, I should have the option to "opt out" of those ads. This feedback should make it’s way back to the advertising engine and modify my profile appropriately. Not only is the beneficial to me, as a consumer who never wants to see and ad for a Buick again, it also is beneficial to Buick who will not have to waste their inventory on me.
The second point was best summed up in a one-liner attributed to Ross Mayfield, "Let’s stop measuring impressions and start measuring the impressed." Online advertising in the Web 1.0 world looked at banner impressions and then, with self-serve networks such as AdSense, cost-per-click. In the world of blogs, trackbacks, and rss subscriptions, it’s now possible to measure something like a cost-per-influence. It’s time for the publishers and advertisers to come together and experiment on this new unit of measure and try out new business models that are made possible by this innovation.
In my mind, advertising is useful and complimentary if it adds to the experience of what I’m reading. It can do this by being either educational, entertaining, or highly contextual (or best case, all three). The tools we have at our desposal are improving and modern day metrics allow us to also to measure not only the nameless "daily uniques" but also the quality of an audience demographic and impact of a writer like never before. I am hopeful that this will ultimately reward quality writing which will benefit us all.