Internet Adversiting: The Medium is NOT the Message

By March 25, 2009

There was a bit of a controversy over the weekend when Techcrunch posted a guest article about the failures of Internet. “Why Advertising is Failing on the Internet,” by Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, argues that “the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it.” “The problem is not the medium, the problem is the message,” writes Clemons. The problem with Internet advertising is that traditional ad models, developed for other media, do not work. Clemons gives three reasons advertising is failing: consumers do not trust advertising, they do not want to view it, and they do not need it. “The internet is about freedom, and I suspect that a truly free population will not be held captive and forced to watch ads,” the professor writes.

Clemons’ argument hinges on the participatory nature on the Internet, writing that users have replaced advertisers in the role of disseminating information about products and services, information that is more trustworthy than paid advertising.

The solution as Clemons sees it is monetizing content. Selling real things, selling virtual things and selling access (subscription fees for preferred sites, for example) are the three ways Clemons believes the Web can be monetized.

These predictions are definitely not the strength of the article, nor are they the type that can avoid controversy. Because of this, Clemons' main message is obfuscated in the same way the death of print news hides the fact that a new, still untamed model has infinitely more potential than the good and trusted old.

“The net will find monetization models and these will be different from the advertising models used by mass media,” writes Clemons, “just as the models used by mass media were different from the monetization models of theater and sporting events before them.”

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