Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Web Advertising Bubble?

The Ugly Side of Web 2.0 Marketing: A Facebook Toilet Paper Poll
Recently I've been listening to Jeff Jarvis's "What Would Google Do?" on audiobook. I haven't finished it yet, so I will suspend my final judgment, I am enjoying the book so far, though sometimes the effusive Google worship gets kind of tiresome (not a fan of the phrase "Google Juice", barf). Don't get me wrong, I love Google too. I am writing this blog article on a Google platform, use their search constantly, Google Earth is amazing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. However, in all my years of using Google, I could count on one hand the number of times I have clicked on a Google ad. And every time my clicks have arisen through simple curiosity, not a real desire to buy something. Though I don't have the figures, I know Google reels in an imponderable number of people to its ads, but I'm sure there are also countless others out there just like me, taking full advantage of Google's favors, but never repaying by clicking on an ad. But it's worse than that. For web advertising to fully pay off for Google, not only must there be a click, but an actual exchange of money, or else, in the long run, companies will not find it worthwhile to advertise with Google. If anyone out there is actually reading this article, I'm curious, and please let me know in the comments: how often do you click on Google advertisements? I really would like to know. With Google ads, for all they try to zero in on me with laser precision, with ads that I would find useful, often what is being sold just seems like crap, or a scam to me. Which leads me to what I shall call, pretentiously, "The Great Contradiction of Web Monetization". The great contradiction is as follows. Jeff Jarvis and people like him would be the first to tell you that the old model of marketing is dead. Thanks to the web, word of mouth can spread like wildfire or a virus. But, you cannot engineer virality. Viral word of mouth will only help sell a product that is truly valuable. So in our brave new world of viral phenomena, truly great products don't need advertising like they used to. Maybe they need a spark to get the wildfire going, but that is all. So, companies with truly great products will only end up handing Google a little bit of money, but after that, Yelp and Amazon reviews will take care of the rest. Because it is the real users of a product or service that truly spread word of mouth, not people who have only seen an advertisement, in a viral world, advertising becomes less relevant, not more. So what does that leave us with in the Google ad bar? Usually crap and scams, like I said. This does not bode well for a company whose revenue stream comes almost entirely from advertising. So what would happen if people everywhere just stopped clicking? I imagine Google would be in trouble. I am not forecasting Google's collapse, that's just ridiculous. They are too good at what they do, which is very many things. However, though Google's domination is widespread, their success is not inevitable. If in the distant future through some freaky combination of a collapse of values in the web advertising market and bad management, Google were to fail, I think a government bailout would be in order. This company has poured out its heart and soul to give consumers so many amazing free tools, that we have all felt the benefits of. They would deserve a bailout much more than the bankers.


  1. thank you for this blog Alex; when I have trouble sleeping, I start to read one of these entry's, and BAM, I'm out like a light.

  2. Came across your blog on a google search for "advertising bubble". I do agree with you that I've personally never clicked on a Google ad. But on the flip side, do not underestimate organizations' desperation at getting knowledge of their product out to the public. Maybe Google ads are largely ineffective, but as long as they're priced with that in mind, it's worth it to a company to pay the small fee to ensnare even that relatively low click-through audience.

    1. There will always be the need for companies to get the word out there, and some industries need advertising more than others, especially when the public needs to be convinced to use a new product that requires explanation. But I think word of mouth has been so amplified by the internet that it has started taking over some of the roles that advertising used to play. I guess only time will tell what the future holds for advertising based web monetization.