Advertising Models Suck, and You Know It

fuzzy lights

Photo courtesy dharmesh84.

I’m going to rant here for a bit. But, before I do, I’d like to thank Noah for putting on a decent conference. I met some good people, had some great eats, and learned a few things. Good times. *Wild applause*

While attending Community Next this past weekend, I survived the unfortunate experience of sitting through a pitch by an online advertising agency. It was pretty easy to see the motivation was to help businesses and site owners “leverage their community” with tips and techniques for using the advertising business model. The pitch, in and of itself, wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact we were at a community conference.

Why is this so bad? Well, I’ve stated my displeasure at the amount of dependence on advertising to fund websites, especially ones which are supposedly attempting to facilitate a community’s interaction (I chose that phrase carefully). I’ll reiterate here, and it’s truly as simple as this: By using advertising revenue, you’re purposefully creating a diversion from the whole point of your site in the first place.

And, there’s plenty of other people that agree with me. We (both you and I) hate advertising. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re ok with it. If the world existed without it, would you be losing something of value? Nope. Didn’t think so.

Honestly, I think if you’re using an advertising revenue model, you don’t really care about the people on your site and you’d rather have them leave through a click-through than use your service at all. Oh, and “leveraging the community” is retarded. If you have ever said or thought that, you don’t get it.

If you’re creative with how you make revenue (which is very well respected by the people who want to use what you’ve created), you can probably add value to their lives in plenty of ways. Case in point: The waterbook project.

So, since I like theory put into practice, how about some practical examples of how to think more creatively about making money on citizen-driven sites? I’ll list a few here, but I’d really rather make this a post for, about, and by you. So, participate, comment, help fix the uncreative folks out there. Let’s think up some good ways to help those poor souls who think advertising is the only way to make money:

  • Subscription models: Duh. If you’re not doing advertising, you’re probably doing some sort of subscription model, so let’s get that out of the way quickly.
  • Affiliate/partner/sponsorships to solve a need: The waterbook project was going to give theoretical plans of systems which could be used to create potable water. Have someone like Home Depot sponsor particular projects. You give the users a link to their site where they can buy each product for the system. This kind of thing could be used for other sites like where people could send flowers, gifts, or other stuff to other users via a 3rd party merchant. Think of the added value you’d be creating without much extra work!
  • Aggregated user-generated content republished: JPG Magazine does this one well. People submit cool photos. They print a cool book with some editorial. The same people who submit the photos subscribe because (a) they may be published in it and/or (b) it’s got some pretty amazing photos I’d like to keep a hard copy of anyway. It’s a cool magazine. Why wouldn’t you want that product if you’re into photography? It’s completely user-generated. You just throw the special sauce in because you’d have the deal with the printer and the voting system implemented, etc.
  • What else? You tell me: Ok, now it’s your turn. What other value-adding (not “community leveraging”) ways of making money are there?

The sooner you stop treating people like money trees, the sooner you’ll actually be creating wealth.

After all that ranting and verbal flailing around, I’ll throw this bit into the mix. Some of you know that I do actually have a few ads on certain pages on this site (well, now all of you do). They’re even Google Adsense. If you want to fight about it, I do have a reason for those to be there, and I do not think they compromise what I’ve been saying above. I won’t get into why at this point, but feel free to bring it to the table if you think it’s worth it.

[tags]community, community next, advertising, revenue models[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

One Comment on "Advertising Models Suck, and You Know It"

  1. SponsorShip Secrets says:

    I agree that most of the models just make easy money in the business.

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