Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Alternatives to basic captchas

September 22, 2010

You’re familiar with captchas, the “are you a real person?” tests at the bottom of online forms that are sometimes decipherable, sometimes not – but essential to cut down on spam, at least of the computer-generated type. Unfortunately, the act of making text unreadable for computers often makes it just as hard for people. But there are a couple of very cool alternatives circulating.

First, one I just read about yesterday – an advertising-based tool that would require users to type in some words related to the ad to “pass the test”. The idea is that they would require some sort of analytical thought to get through, rather than just repeating verbatim what’s presented. In the example shown, for instance, users are asked to enter the quoted text – which requires that they know which text is in quotes. The brilliance in this approach, of course (assuming it works), is the additional revenue it could generate.

The second is an older one, but also very cool and worth pointing out. It’s called recaptcha and is a form of crowdsourcing. Basically, when old books are being scanned and digitized through OCR (optical character recognition) technology, some errors will inevitably creep up. Recaptcha takes these hard-to-read (for computers) words and turns them into a captcha test so that the time spent solving captchas can be put to good use.

What are your thoughts on captchas? Have you used either of these technologies on your site? Do you know of any other alternatives?


Advertising vs. e-commerce

February 16, 2010

Just read an interesting article from the Guardian on’s shift in focus from maximum traffic to what it terms the “three Cs: content, commerce and clubs”. The idea, according to digital editor Edward Roussel, is to broaden revenue streams away from a focus on advertising:

In his view journalism must become more entrepreneurial… “In the UK, display advertising on the web is a £1bn business, and it is stagnating. E-commerce on the other hand is a £50bn business, and it is vibrant. That is one of the challenges,” he said.

How well do you know online ad units?

November 3, 2009

There’s an article up on on a new online ad format that’s been making the rounds – the push-down. (You can guess what it does.) They also give a good overview of some other “newfangled” (i.e., not standard banners) ad units that are being used.

The key, as they say, is not to cross the line from effective to annoying. I’ve always thought that annoying vokens (those ad units that walk, fly or float across your screen) will turn readers off your site and brand – but then, they bring in more revenue than standard banners, and we all need more revenue from our sites.

What do you think about these ad formats?

How to make money online

July 12, 2009

The debate is still on (and for good reason) about how the media can make money with their online properties. Readership is certainly there, but display advertising isn’t bringing in enough revenue and most readers are unwilling to pay to read articles online. The New York Times is said to be about to charge a monthly fee of $5 for access, but whether the strategy will work is questionable. (They might suck me in, though – I’ve become extremely addicted to their excellent health section.)

The Guardian recently spoke with Chris Anderson of Wired on his thoughts on monetizing media websites. His ideal model, they write, is that we shouldn’t charge for everything, but for those things that people are really willing to pay for: “It’s not about whether to charge but choosing carefully which specialised content people will pay for and developing additional premium services.” Golf Digest, for example, is considering starting a branded club that will charge for membership in exchange for services, discounts or other premiums.

The million-dollar question, of course, is what will people pay for? Figure that out, price the model well, and you may just bring in profit from your brand in excess of advertising, using the “free” content on the website as a lure.

Sometimes, readers will pay for content

April 15, 2009

A story’s been making the rounds lately that online magazine The Tyee has successfully solicited its readers for funds to cover the costs of covering the upcoming BC election.

Says editor David Beers, in a letter to readers:

As the corporate media model melts down worldwide, and the CBC is stripped, Tyee readers have a chance to show a way true investigative reporting can be supported. … be assured every penny will go straight into more journalism between now and voting day, and we will keep you apprised of how and where your money was spent.

I think it’s an interesting case. Everyone inside the media industry knows that supporting quality journalism on online ad revenue alone is a long shot at the least. But the Internet age has trained the general public – all of us, really – that content should be free, and that anyone can be a journalist. Here, The Tyee is telling readers that journalism requires resources, reporter time and the money it costs.

The question is, is this a one-time case? Or is it a sign of the times? And would it work for other publishers?

The answer: it depends. Here, The Tyee is asking for funding for a special, short-term project, one that is close to the heart of many of its readers (who, if I can hazard a guess, are less likely than the average to be huge fans of the current BC premier). Would requests work as well if they came every month? Probably not. Donor fatigue would set in.

And would it work for a more mainstream publisher, one who published less “important” or “essential” information? It’s hard to say, but probably not, if it’s information they can get elsewhere. What makes this case special is that The Tyee is local to BC and specializes in BC, and has a perspective on local politics that no one else shares. They occupy a unique slot in the market and their readers appreciate that.

That being said, if you have the right project, it would be worth a try.

What do you think? Is this a special case, or is the model applicable to the industry at large?

Improving online ads

December 4, 2008

Banner ads are the standard when it comes to online advertising, but lately there’s been talk of how well they really work, and of how little money they actually bring in per reader (as opposed to print). But what if you could drastically improve their effectiveness?

An article in yesterday’s New York Times discusses a pair of California-based companies doing exactly that. They’re experimenting with colours, fonts, images and other features of standard ads – as they interact with the web page they’re displayed on – to collect data on what gets the most clicks, and the most sell-throughs. And their results show that advertisers, marketers and designers may have to shift their mindset when it comes to creating ads:

“I think the creative community has to get very comfortable with results-based outcomes in marketing,” said Mr. Hanlon, whose company has an interest in Tumri. “There are a lot of creative people who didn’t sign up for that kind of world.”

Bant Breen, the president of worldwide digital communications at Initiative, the Interpublic Group media buying and planning firm, had a similar view. “The traditional creative process right now is not structured to essentially deliver hundreds of permutations, or hundreds of ideas for messaging,” said Mr. Breen, whose firm is using Tumri to determine which ads are working.

“There’s no doubt that there will be a lot of data that can be collected that could be applied to the creative process.”

Maintaining the ad/edit divide online

November 13, 2008

In print, there is a long-standing tradition – even guidelines – of the boundary between what is often called church and state, or editorial and advertising. The point is to always make it clear to the reader what is editorial and what is paid content. Many – including me – believe that it’s this separation that builds the trust from readers that magazines are known for. And it doesn’t seem to be hurting the ad business – after all, readers are very responsive to magazine ads, not only because the magazine is a trusted source but also because unlike television ads, magazine ads are unintrusive: they don’t shout at you, they don’t interrupt what you’re reading (for the most part), and they can be skipped and returned to later.

There are some who believe that this ad/edit divide is more flexible online. I think this is something we all need to be very, very careful of.

Think about it: your brand is your brand. If you confuse or deceive a reader online, they will associate that event with your print product. If you annoy your online readers with invasive advertising, they will associate the annoyance with your entire brand, not just with your website.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be creative with online advertising: far from it. Being creative is the only way we’re going to make our websites profitable. But make sure not to betray the reader’s trust: don’t disguise advertorial as editorial, and hold your online editorial to the highest standards possible. It’s not worth making short-term sacrifices if they have a negative impact on your brand, across platforms, in the long run.

Multipage vs. single page articles

September 10, 2008

Mitch Joel at Twist Image has an interesting post up about his annoyance at multipage articles on websites. His annoyance stems from the fact that this practice often exists simply so that sites can increase their pageviews (and thus ad impressions) and pages per visitor.

So, why do magazine and newspaper Websites continue this terrible user experience of having to click through multiple web pages to read a 750 word article?

Is it possible that those two extra clicks of the mouse generate enough page impressions and banner ads served that it’s worth the frustration to their readers? The answer must be yes.

Guilty as charged – who doesn’t want to help out their stats, and who isn’t under pressure to increase ad impressions? Multipage content (slideshows are often an extension of this in a lot of cases) can be a good way to increase pages per visitor, and therefore demonstrate higher user engagement.

But…it isn’t just about the impressions. Michelle Evans notes in the comments that multipage articles are a good way of gauging user engagement – you can tell in your analytics software how many people clicked through to the next page. And Lorenzo says that he likes multiple pages on long articles as it gives him a sense of progression. (I’d have to agree.)

My take as a reader? Clicking through multiple pages a paragraph at a time is overkill. But for longer content, I’m happy to do it and even sometimes welcome it. And if this is what it takes for online media to make money at this stage in the game, then fine – I prefer it over a) invasive ads (strange floating popups, I’m talking to you) and b) pay walls. 

My take as a web editor? I hesitate to put up really long articles in one page. It just seems strange, like the reader will get lost. And yes, I do like to see how many people click through multiple pages in content.

What do you think?

Why should you increase traffic?

September 2, 2008

You’ve covered the essentials: you’ve got a website, and you have a staff member (several, if you’re lucky) assigned to work on it. Now you’re ready to work on increasing your site traffic. But have you thought about why?

This isn’t a trick question; there’s no inherent reason to build your traffic (unless you like to show off high Comscore numbers at parties). So before you embark on a traffic-building plan, it’s a good idea to decide why you want those higher numbers. That way, you can build a plan that meets your goals.

Some good reasons to build traffic are:

• Ad revenue (advertisers like big numbers)
• Building your brand (make a larger number of people aware of who you are and what you stand for)
• Creating “community” (also, generally, around your brand)
• Pushing print subscriptions (an old-fashioned site strategy, but still a common one) 

It’s likely that you agree with all of these reasons. But if you’ve got limited resources (and please, find me a Canadian magazine that doesn’t), it’s worth deciding what’s most important and focusing on that.

Why are you building your site’s traffic? Is it for the wrong reasons?

Growth reported in online media aimed at women

August 20, 2008

There was an interesting article the other day in the New York Times about the growth in online media aimed at women – second only to politics, apparently. 

They profile a woman called Heather Armstrong, who runs a blog about motherhood at – and makes enough money from it that she and her husband don’t have to work elsewhere. 

What I find interesting is how she is doing so well despite not “playing it safe” like magazine sites tend to do:

Ms. Armstrong of Dooce says readers come to her because she is more honest than glossy women’s magazines. “It’s really raw and unfiltered, not run through a committee of 12 people who need to approve what you say. It’s the real deal,” she said.

That does not always go over well with advertisers. When Ms. Armstrong used a lewd phrase in the subtitle of her blog, two family entertainment companies removed their ad campaigns from her site.

“I thought that was awesome,” Ms. Armstrong said. “I knew an advertiser would pull out, but I think advertisers are beginning to understand that people come to my Web site because I do that — the reason I have eyeballs is because of my irreverence.”

The question is, in the long term, is it better to cater to advertisers to protect your revenue or to cater to readers for better traffic growth? Can you do both?