PBS | I, Cringely . December 29, 2005 – Stop the Presses!
Cringley takes a unique look at the effect of Yahoo and Google on traditional publishing models, offering a unique perspective that the challenge is the shift in ad spending away from "passive" media, ie a print ad which has no intelligence nor accountability, but real estate, arguing that there is no way a typical web page can duplicate the ad-edit ratio imposed on print by 2nd Class postage rates. While a stretch, he does hit close to the nerve — that the avalanche towards accountable pay-per-click is putting huge deflationary pressure on content value as publisher rush to make the online transition but find there simply isn’t the same economic margins from a page view on "glass" vs paper.
"…pay-per-click, which is brutally honest, where every successful ad has efficacy and advertisers have a pretty darned good idea what they are getting for their money. This reality is precisely why magazines, newspapers, and television are losing revenue to pay-per-click. It is a trend that is likely to continue, and can only result in a degradation of production standards on the print side to match the reduced revenue potential of the online business, where BS gives way to measurable, though impoverished, results."
The play for publishers is to recast themselves as editorial creators and more as a marketing service firms — this is where lead generation comes in, the online equivalent of the old reader service bingo cards that cluttered the back of most pubs in the past. By becoming extensions to their advertisers’ marketing and sales efforts, publishers are putting themselves periously out into a frontier they are neither comfortable with operationally nor ethically.
I think the play for online publishers is to embrace the one thing that distinguishes them from marketing pimps — their editorial ethics and objectivity — and begin to provide a neutral haven for their audience’s information. Taking that information as currency and then acting as a blind drop broker in sharing it, and protecting it, from advertisers. By continuing to gate content, rent lists, and otherwise pimp their readers to their advertisers, publishers will diminish their credibility further, alienate the audience, and lose the one piece of credibility that distinguishes them from the herd — objectivity and neutrality.
I’ll develop the rant further in the future.