Online advertising is all around us. Sometimes it’s discrete, and sometimes it’s in your face. Sometimes it’s helpful, and sometimes it’s annoying. As the web continues to evolve into a completely free service, sponsored only by advertisers, so too does the integrated complexity of online advertising. The purpose of this post is to explore the art of online advertising by looking at human nature with respect to both the general public and advertisers.
How did the internet evolve into a collection of free services?
In the early days of the internet, people had to pay for pretty much everything. Can you imagine having to pay for an online directory? AOL did. And they made a lot of money from it too. Paying for services like online directories was very short lived however, due to the human nature of competition. In the mid 90’s, a couple of college students created a free online directory of their favorite websites, and later added search capabilities. It was a little project called Yahoo. As other free services began to emerge in order to compete with paid services, the free services began to take over the internet, resulting in the web that we know and love today.
The nature of online advertising
In one of my previous articles, How online advertisers sponsor the internet, I discussed how most of the major websites we use today are free services that earn revenue from online advertisers. That being said, it’s interesting to see how different business models support online advertising. To really understand how online advertising fits into the world wide web, it’s important to realize what the general public wants and expects out of their internet experience, and what online advertisers want and expect out of ad-driven websites.
The general public, for the most part, uses the internet as a tool to find information, to be entertained, to network, and to get work done. People aren’t usually seeking to find new products and services offered by businesses. Online advertisers, on the other hand, see the internet as a portal of potential new customers. They are generally only concerned with one thing: getting people to find out about their business, and getting people to use their services or buy their products. Finally, the free websites that we use every day, like Google, YouTube, and Facebook, must somehow find a happy medium between both of these group’s desires and expectations. How do they do it?
Assault Advertising is when a website aggressively forces users to look at advertisements. The most notorious example of Assault Advertising is popup ads. Fewer websites use this technique today because it usually causes new visitors to leave the site and never return. These types of websites are like radio stations that play commercials 90% of the time. Who wants to listen to that?
Assertive Advertising is a technique that websites use to promote advertisers in less aggressive ways than Assault Advertising. For example, when a page or video is loading, sometimes websites will use Assertive Advertising to show an ad while the user waits for content to load. Visitors are usually more accepting of this type of advertising because it’s non disruptive, unlike Assault Advertising.
Peripheral Advertising is a type of advertising in which websites display both content and ads simultaneously, with the hope that users might glance at the advertisements while viewing content. This is the most common type of advertising because it’s easy to implement and usually doesn’t annoy visitors. This type of advertising is usually implemented with banners and image ads like the one at the top right of this page.
Inline Advertising is the most effective and least invasive form of online advertising. This type of advertising is usually implemented with one or two links integrated within a website’s content. Google for example displays paid advertisements at the top of selected search result pages. As users search for the content they are looking for, they naturally read through the advertisements and have a very high likely hood of clicking on a link. As another example, Digg uses Inline Advertising by positioning paid Digg articles in the third slot of every Digg category page. WebKrunk also uses Inline Advertising because the end of each article leads directly into two links paid for by online advertisers.