Where Garrick Goes Off on Ad-Subsidized Internet Business Models

There’s something missing from Minnesota. Though this problem is most obvious in the metropolitan region of the Twin Cities, the problem is just as serious in greater Minnesota – places like Duluth, Mankato, Austin, Collegeville, and St. Cloud.

The cool stuff is hard to find and therefore easy to ignore. The fact you’re reading this means you’re missing something far more interesting with someone far cooler. My apologies.

When I launched MNteractive a couple years back – it was just a calendar. Of everything somehow related to design – exhibits at the Walker and Art Institute, professional organization meetings, anything. Most venues didn’t publish RSS or even iCal, – I’d manually re-publsh the events to this site to generate both. Still do – for far fewer events these days. Anyone with a MNteractive login can publish, so get to it. ;)

If you’ve read any of my rants on the problems of advertising over at my other blog I’m being redundant here: publishing and distributing in print, television, and radio is expensive, cumbersome, and painful. Advertisers soothe that greater pain in exchange for adding a little bit more.

This additional pain is felt in two ways:

  1. By the publisher – in an increased publication size (i.e. TV programs are shorter without ads)
  2. By the reader, viewer, listener – by interrupting, distracting from, and in all other ways devaluing the publisher’s original message.

With great exception, these pains don’t exist in the online realm. The majority of websites can live quite happily on a few dollars/mn shared hosting plan. The price of a dinner with wine at the Highland Grill.

I used to look forward to the City Pages’ Best Of issue. It’s just too hard to find interesting bits between ads for escorts and phone sex. Ultimately, I’d just ask Scott which restaurants are good.

We still subscribe to the Sunday Star Tribune. I don’t know why. Tradition mostly. Sunday mornings sound less comfortable without it.

Each Sunday, I sort the paper before going through it. Mentally – if not physically -culling out stories I don’t care about, already read elsewhere, non-MN-based, and syndicated. On the top of the remaining stack I place the weekly flyers to 4-5 of our local big box retailers and the comics. That’s what I page through over coffee. The rest goes straight to the recycling bin. What would it take to have weekly ad flyers delivered to me without an OP/ED page associated with it? (I’m all for commercial messages. It’s just not needed to subsidize the publications anymore)

In actuality, all these publications are ad-delivery devices. The publishers are ad publishers not news publishers or otherwise. As I’ve asked before, I’d don’t know why the publications aren’t 100% advertising. Seems like a win-win for everyone. Publications won’t need to worry about financing original content and advertisers get lots and lots of full page ads, just like what MSP/St.Paul Magazine is doing.

There’s a number of reasons’ ad-based models are a bad idea

  1. It’s not interesting.
  2. In highly niche, über-segmented markets, the difference between a commercial message and a non-commercial message is nil.
  3. Pageviews are irrelevant – RSS subscriptions will surpass pageviews in a year if not sooner.
  4. But really this is why:

    “MySpace can’t sell attention to advertisers because the site itself HAS NONE. Nobody pays attention to MySpace — users pay attention to each other, and compete for each other’s attention — it’s as if the site itself doesn’t exist.” – Scott Karp

If media darling MySpace can’t monetize pageviews with advertising who can? RocketBoom?

They pulled in $40k for a week of spots in their first eBay ad auction. I agree with Dave Winer that there success is like the success of the MillionDollarHomepage, it’s something that can only happen a small number of times.

MNteractive doesn’t pull in $1200/month (I suspect it pulls in much, much more) and it’s full of ads – product placement and otherwise.

UPDATE 30 May 2006
Seth Godin asks the same question and how is this RocketBoom anything but an ad?