Pick Two: Novel, Unobtrusive, Relevant

Bonus follow-up post on advertising!

So here’s how to make ads (online and elsewhere) not completely suck chunks. In software engineering, we have the concept of “pick two.” You want your software solutions to be cheap, fast, and functional. You only get to have to of those though, so pick the two that are most important. (e.g. software that is cheap and does what you need it to, will take a long time to get. Software that is fast and cheap will not be very good.)

In order for your ads to not be terrible you need to meet two of the following criteria:

Unobtrusive - It doesn’t significantly interfere with the user’s experience. Google’s text ads in search are a good example of this. They’re there, and you tend to read them instinctively, but they don’t forcibly grab your attention or interrupt your experience like pop-ups do.

Novel - Make your ads worthwhile content in and of themselves. ARGs and most beer commercials fit this. However, this means that you can’t rest on your laurels. A funny beer commercial is good, but if all 5 ads in a 21 minute Hulu spot are the same “funny” beer ad, the novelty wears thin quickly.

Relevant - Make your ad relevant to the audience that will be seeing it. A beer commercial during an episode of Spongebob probably isn’t a good idea. Similarly, anything that is targeted to me as a demographic probably shouldn’t advertise makeup. Go with video games. That’s always a decent option.

As the two bonus “must haves”, don’t ever host malicious ads. Look into any companies that you might have serve ads. Make sure that they’re proactive at keeping that garbage off your site. Look for reports from users of whether they’ve had problems in the past. Look for an official policy stating that they don’t allow malware and what they do to offenders. If malware gets served by an ad, everyone involved looks bad.

Host the ads yourself. I do most of my blocking with a HOSTS file. The biggest weakness of a hosts file is that it can only block cross-domain ads. If you are hosting and serving your own ads and taking the bandwidth costs of that form of monetization on yourself (a la Facebook), I respect that decision, and you won’t get blocked. (Some ad blocking programs can find and block locally-hosted ads on major sites like Google and Facebook, but I personally don’t use those ones partially for that reason.)

On a completely unrelated note, one of my other bands, Lipstick has a show next week. If you're in the Nashville area, you should come check it out!

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