Primary-engagement media can monetize differently
To be picky the original banner size was 468x60. It stretches right back to 1996 (the first ads I sold on ZDNet.Co.uk weren’t to that then new standard but we switched - standard sizes save production costs leaving more budget for media buys). What is often forgotten is that screen resolutions improved a lot in the next few years so 468 x 60 went from being a reasonable slice of the page ‘real estate’ to being this shrunken apology of an ad to which you rightly refer. It says quite a lot about the vendors and buyers that nobody noticed this for several years.
So well-put: 'Big publishers have built their operations to satisfy the spreadsheet. They are expert at mixing plenty of chaff with the wheat and pretending it’s all wheat. It reminds me of how the editorial side shifted to write for algorithms. So too did the sales side shift from solving client business challenges to gaming the mechanics of the spreadsheet. All part of the hustle.'