The question raised by Chris Levin today on Poynter got me thinking: Why don’t bloggers cut out the middleman and sell ads on their pages for cheaper? Obviously, this is a hypothetical scenario because ad sales works just as hard as anyone in the media industry, but the problem with the system now is that we’re using the antiquated model of print sales for the web. What if we let advertisers feel safer by not having to put out a small fortune to list on a site, but rather work on a much smaller pay-scale, with all the money going directly into the blogger/writer/editor/whomever’s wallet?
I asked some resident Internet experts about the plan, and this was there response.
Alex Pareene: Working for an organization that takes care of that for you, in exchange for a regular salary, is something of a luxury — unless of course someone’s making a fortune on your work and not paying you equitably, but, you know, hardly anyone is making a fortune right now, I guess.
But it’s like distributing your album without a record company: unless you’re already Radiohead, you’re not actually gonna make a living doing it. You still want the muscle of a large organization behind you.
Rachel Sklar: I think it’s definitely time for new models. The slippery slope is one leading to tailoring editorial material to the specific will of advertisers, or blurring into advertorial, like if it was suddenly revealed that Diet Coke had been paying me all these years to mention them (they’re not. But man I could use a can right now). The key is transparency – don’t try to fool your audience. Sponsorship is fine and creative sponsorship is fine, too – just make sure your audience knows the difference.
Hamilton Nolan: It’s pretty hard to do both at once time-wise and skill-wise, but if you can, more power to you. Overall writing on the internet is just not a good moneymaker for the vast majority of people unless you get some big media company behind you. Basically I think it’s a fine idea if you can pull it off.
Cord Jefferson: As a person who’s not rich, i can understand the appeal of soliciting ads, but as a writer who’s dealt with ads crossing over into content, it scares me a little. I think that there’s a better model…I don’t know what it is, but I think it exists. It’s sort of the eternal struggle though, between business people and creatives, right? Creatives sort of trick themselves into believing that their artistic contributions are heavy enough to balance out their poverty, and business people are wired the exact opposite way
Hunter Walker: I think the question really isn’t about who’s selling the ads, it’s about whether or not web advertising is effective…Businesses clearly aren’t convinced that advertising online is worth their money yet.
On one level, I think the problem has to do with the quality of online ads. So much of the advertising you see online is basically traditional print stuff put online. With pop up and banner ads running so rampant readers have basically trained themselves to ignore images and text appearing alongside content What isn’t being dealt with is problems with the content.
Advertisers are more comfortable dealing with traditional media companies.They have name recognition and in many cases their ad sales departments have invested many years in building relationships with advertisers.So blogs are really going to have to offer something that advertisers can’t get through traditional means. Since most blogs seem very far off from actually rivaling old media properties in terms of traffic, I think one of the only ways to get serious ad money is to offer access to a niche audience that advertisers can’t find elsewhere. Sadly, it seems like so many blogs are going in the exact opposite direction.
And our own boss Aaron Gell chimes in: What writer/bloggers will quickly find out if they begin selling their own ads is not simply how hard ad teams work it but how much shit they eat and (thankfully) protect editors from. While it’s probably true that bloggers without any scruples whatsoever are now in a position to cash in by pimping out their reputations to the highest bidders I can’t see how it doesn’t instantly pervert truth, honest discourse and all we hold dear.