Persuading Surfers’ Eyeballs
It’s a grim season for Americans who own homes (or, shopping malls). Luckily, casual blogging for mediocre stakes is quickly filling the gap as the ultimate backstop for the American economy. Well, sort of:
[W]ith the right mix of compelling content and exposure, a blog can draw a dedicated following, making advertising a low-hanging fruit.
“This is really a continuation of how the Web in general has enabled smaller businesses and individuals to compete if not at a level playing field, at least a more equitable level,” said David Hallerman, a senior analyst with the research group eMarketer.
AdSense is an automated program that places targeted advertising on sites big and small. Other programs such as PayPerPost are just as user friendly; bloggers sign up and advertisers cherry pick where they want to place ads based on categories and the number of impressions a site captures.
Getting paid might even help validate what may otherwise seem like a silly or obscure obsession.
For Samuel Chi, BCSGuru.com started as a way to demystify the convoluted universe of college football rankings.
Chi, a former sports journalist with training in statistics, posts his calculations every Saturday night during the season before official results are released Sunday. From Saturday night to Monday, about 4,000 sports fans log on daily to check out the “guru’s” forecast.
This season, Chi made about $8,000 from the blog; ticket brokers contacted him directly after word about his site got out. AdSense brought in another couple hundred dollars for Chi, the owner of a bed-and-breakfast in Amelia Island, Fla.
A few things. First, it is very hard to imagine that $8,000 is going to validate what is, let’s be frank, a silly and obscure obsession with college football rankings. But putting that aside, it strikes me as odd that the article paid so little attention to the potentially pernicious consequences of running targeted ads on a niche website. With evidence growing that online advertising works, even when it isn’t clicked on, there are, I think, two sets of issues to think about.
Second, total persuasion. As I argued here and more extensively here, we should be troubled by a world in which it is impossible to walk, or surf, “without feeling like a targeted consumer.” In a world where ads are generalized, like T.V., you can a) feel confident in your ordinary defenses to advertising – skepticism, caution, disbelief – will work; and therefore b) you will feel the freedom of being unpersuaded, and in making consumer choices that maximize your well-being, broadly defined. This is not true with targeted advertising. Thus, although it is nice that small blogs like ours can monetize themselves – indeed, I pushed and continue to support the decision to take on advertising – we should acknowledge the cost paid by our readers. Targeted advertising on a blog means that readers become consumers, subject to the most persuasive speech money can buy. Ultimately, I imagine that almost every blog with non-negligible traffic streams will take on advertising, if only to defray hosting fees. And folks can be persuaded from cradle to grave. Even during lunch!
(Image Source: Wikicommons.)