The Gamble of Ad Networks ➝

Álvaro Serrano, writing in the Afterword section of his this week’s Morning Coffee:

The reality is — and people know it — that there’s no way to build a successful ad network without incurring in some of the bad practices they were supposed to address in the first place. You can’t participate in a massive network that rotates ads across tens of different websites and still claim that those ads are somehow tailored specifically to your readers. […]

The way I see it, the burden falls squarely on publishers to defend their readers’ time and attention and protect their trust. By placing that trust in the hands of an ad network, as ethical and well-intentioned as that network may be, they were effectively taking a gamble.

This whole ad blocking conversation has reminded me of my piece on native advertising from earlier this year:

This helped me to start thinking about native advertising from a different perspective (at least when it comes to one man shops), maybe we should be questioning the morality of links to products and services that we have no control over. Maybe the best way to maintain integrity is to vet every single word and link published on our sites. If someone else makes decisions about what products and services are linked to in sponsorship spots then how can we as publishers vouch for the quality of everything we publish?

I was more talking about sponsored posts throughout the article, but it’s applicable to any other form of advertising on the web. How can publishers vouch for the quality of their website if some percentage of their page’s “content” is in the form of advertising determined by a third-party that they have almost no control over?

I think it might be time for publishers to take their ad sales and hosting in-house. It’s going to be hell trying to convince advertisers that it’s the right thing to do — deliver ads without a third-party intermediary — but in the end, I think it’s the only respectable way to earn a living through advertising on the web. Simple, non-rotating banner ads that link to a product or service without the use of JavaScript sounds like a breath of fresh air compared to the current online ad market. And there’s plenty of ways for the publisher and advertiser to track the effectiveness of the ad that doesn’t require the use of third-party services.