Thinking about business models issues involving media companies, I am struck by the continuing reliance on advertising as the fundamental funding mechanism. Also, I am struck by the seeming reluctance to examine some of the fundamental premises behind advertising itself as a revenue source.
Often, advertising seems designed to facilitate consumption as its principal point of focus. On the other hand, I think the Internet has created consumer behavior that sets a very different priority for advertising.
If most consumers are like me, they are interested in using advertising on the web to enable them to solve a problem or meet a need immediately. Time is money, and I want to solve problems/meet needs in the most efficient way possible. I am willing to trade some money for time, particularly if it enables me to move to the solution more expediently and completely.
Therefore, to me it makes sense to reinvent advertising as a “pull” activity rather than having it based always on the spraying of messaging indiscriminately via “push” mechanisms to consumers.
Wouldn’t much more market efficiency be created if consumers were able to dial up advertising on the fly that mapped to their immediate life needs? And then being able to move that selection of relevant advertising through any media experience they were having in the moment, regardless of the device being utilized?
For example, suppose I am surfing the web at the moment and simultaneously I am trying to find the best deal for a camera or a car. Why can’t I simply make a mouse click and set the computer to draw in all the relevant advertising (by category) that would allow me to focus on solving the problem?
One could argue that generalized search does this already, but it is usually a multi-step process. Search can also miss sites or material that would be potentially beneficial due to a variety of factors, such as lack of complete listing of local information. Meanwhile, when trying to meet a need, while simultaneously consuming media for other reasons, I may continue to be bombarded by useless advertising that isn’t helping me solve my problem.
I believe consumers might well pay for a “pull” capacity that is simple, fool-proof, capable of being switched out “on the fly,” and available on all devices.
At first blush, making it work would not seem to be a small task. The initial thought could be a consortium-driven massive database of advertising that could be served across the web and mobile platforms, flowing seamlessly into templates based on tags and coding. However, crowdsourced tagging (“the Flickr solution”) might be another way of initially shaping the flow of advertising into a network, as content, thereby helping shape a new pull paradigm.
An immediate benefit to consumers would be saving them time and creating the most straight-line path to potential solutions. For advertisers, the benefit would be the efficiency of hitting consumers who are automatically “pre-qualified” and predisposed to buy the best product or service that meets their need criteria in the moment. For media companies, developing such a system could be a source of enhanced revenue because consumers might actually be willing to pay a premium for this kind of service if it could be guaranteed to work, particularly if it fit within the context of a monthly cable bill or ISP provider bill.
I realize that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and others are all working on search-driven solutions based upon further refinements in the serving up of contextual advertising. However, even with the most efficient algorithm matching, the ads being served are still interpretations, or paid keyword terms, and all involve some guesswork (at least in terms of understanding user intent in the moment as to why a particular page is being read). So, in my mind, that still begs some fundamental questions. Wouldn’t it still be more efficient and better simply to enable users to pick their own advertising information targets? And wouldn’t that potentially improve advertiser and media business models? And lead to more satisfied consumers?