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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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The Internet's Boulevard of Broken Dreams
By: Jaffer Ali

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible."
-T.E Lawrence (AKA Lawrence of Arabia)

First, why did I choose today's title, "The Internet's Boulevard of Broken Dreams"? The simple answer is that most publishers entered the Internet space filled with dreams of carpets of gold strewn beneath their feet. The problem was, too many dreamed only at night with their eyes closed.

The first prescription today is to open your eyes when you dream. This means taking a look at reality. If you are a publisher, ask yourself the following question: Who are your customers? Seems simple, doesn't it? Yet many publishers will answer, "My audience."

Unless your audience comprises paying subscribers, they are not your customers. Whoever pays you are your customers... and in most cases, it's advertisers picking up the tab. If you feel differently, you're a hobbyist, not a businessperson. This is not to denigrate your hobby or passion. But there's no excuse for not knowing what business you're in. For online publishers who depend on ad revenue, your business is advertising, and to not understand this is an exercise in vanity, nothing more than self-indulgent dreaming at night.

Like the slew of folks peddling narcotics to keep you sleeping and dreaming at night, one-to-one marketing gurus promise publisher and advertiser alike that they have the magic formula for delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time. Their claim is to offer a better return for all parties.

Wake up! One-to-one marketing (and all of its derivative cousins like behavioral targeting) is based on the false assumption that human behavior is rational and that purchasing decisions are rational. Furthermore, these technologies want to turn your advertising ad space into direct marketing inventory.

Opening your eyes to companies turning your entire business into a direct marketing medium requires you to understand what is going on. Sleep walking your way through the day will not get you out of the mess. Few, if ANY, publishers can survive by turning their entire media inventory into DR media. Intermediaries can make a killing, but not you, the publisher.

I can hear the niche publishers now: "But long-tail marketing will save me." At least that's what Wired's Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) would have every marketer and publisher believing. But the era of super niches and self-indulgent narcissism is eroding far faster than you can chase your own long tail.

Publishers catering to that "long tail" must wipe the sleep from their eyes and drink some coffee. We are at the dawn of a return to mass marketing. And this marketing imperative means dollars will go to those who understand what business they're in and who their customers are. What? Sacrilegious!

Brands with huge budgets that have also been distracted by "conventional digital thinking" and offered a bed they could never be comfortable in will once again assert their needs.

But necessity is more than the mother of invention. It is the driving force of nature and the folks with the most money to spend on advertising -- large brands รข?? truly want and need to reach the masses, no matter how much lip service they pay to things like CRM and social marketing. Publishers better wake up. Solutions begin the moment we open our eyes and dream in the full light of day.

Jaffer is the CEO of Vidsense and can be reached via email at:

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