The commerce web

From ads to sales

Tomorrow, April 10, at 1pmET, The Rebooting is holding an online forum in partnership with Viafoura. During the hourlong session, I'll be joined by Dotdash Meredith chief innovation officer Jon Roberts and Viafoura CEO Mark Zohar to discuss how publishers must adapt their strategies for a "post-traffic" world of digital media. That means attracting intentional audiences and focusing on deeper connections vs fly-by impressions. Join us.

The demise of the open web can be pinned on how digital advertising has been developed and the incentives it has produced. 

Digital ad systems are architected to incentivize those who can provide some kind of proof they drove sales. Search is the paradigm for modern digital ad systems, a liquid marketplace that matches demand as expressed in queries with the supply of millions advertisers and hundreds of millions of ads. Facebook and other tech platforms followed suit. The proof is in the performance, or at least the appearance of performance. That’s long been the pitch.

That’s produced a set of incentives that inevitably led to a race to the bottom. UX horror shows, clickbait and underfunded and shrinking newsrooms. Leave aside the morality plays. It’s the incentives, stupid.  

Made-for-advertising sites gobble up as much as $10 billion in ad spending not through neglect. They win on performance because “people stuck in a clickbait funnel will easily move on to anything more fulfilling.” That means, for the most part, publishers are not incentivized to provide high-quality environments with high-quality ad placements. Viewability and brand safety standards have created cottage industries, not improved the media ecosystem.