In the end, are people ever going to stop putting ads on the internet? Nope. They’re irresistible. If someone told me that I could get 1,000 more pageviews a day on this blog if I paid 5 bucks a month for a banner ad, I might consider it. It’s just so easy. But I know that I’ll never put ads on this blog or on any commercial web site I create. There has to be a better way.
As I write that, I realize that I haven’t really solved the problem. I’ve discussed ways to simulate window shopping on the web and ways to connect real-life ads and the web, but I haven’t determined how to market a single product or company on the internet without using banner ads.
Say you start an online company. You’re selling hats for cats that are filled with catnip (www.hatsforcats.com). You want to get the word out on the internet that this product exists. How do you do it? First, I’d say that you’d contact established sites like Amazon.com and pets.com to ask them to carry your product.
Second, you contact Google and buy a small-business ad so whenever someone searches for “cat accessories” or “cute feline clothing,” a link to your web site appears in the right margin. So far, so good. Nothing really obtrusive, and you have a way of reaching a customer who may never have heard of you.
But what’s the next level?
Here’s where you could sell out. You could buy a banner ad with a cute picture of a cat wearing a hat that appears on a variety of sites. That actually might be effective, but is it good for the internet? The webeconomy?
You could take a more direct approach–you could search for blogs and smaller web sites that are related or devoted to cats. You could contact the owners of those sites and ask them to put a self-designed ad on their site. This is more specific than a generic banner blast; I could see this working.
But there must be a better way. Isn’t there some way to let people know about your product or site without adding more ads to the internet? How do you let a hundred million IP addresses know that you exist?
I’ve been staring at my screen for 10 minutes now, and I still don’t have the answer. Maybe there is no answer–maybe the above steps are the only ways to keep the internet clutter to a minimum and still sell your product to a wide audience. If there was only some way to get people to register all of their interests and information so the relevant ads could come to them. But who would sign up for more ads? Nobody wants that.
I think I need to face the truth: I don’t have a solution. I hope this hasn’t been one big tease for you. If you have the answer, let me know. And if/when I think of it, I promise to post it here.