I enjoyed this column by Bill Thompson on the BBC News web-site because it questions, and begins to through a bit of light on something with which I’ve been puzzling for some time. If increasingly clever on-line advertising is going to fund so much of the web and software in general in the future (and of course, it’s a model which is serving Google exceedingly well at the moment), why do my friends and I so seldom actually click on an ad? On most sites, I am pretty well blind to, or at best irritated by, banner ads; my pop-up blocker does a pretty good job of eliminating unwanted interruptions and I never click the Sponsored Links when I do a Windows Live or Google search.
I’m not sure what the answer is. Web metrics and measurement are far from perfect but they are still many, many times more telling than comparative measures available for broadcast or print media. Advertisers are not daft – although I’m sure they suffer as badly as others from the herd instinct – so they must be able to demonstrate some form of return. Perhaps it’s just that the marginally more demonstrable returns from online are sucking dollars out of the scatter-gun approach of press advertising. As they say, in the Kingdom of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King.