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Making Banner Ads Suck Less 326

The unusually-seen Kurt Gray wrote this; it's funny, to the point and more honest than may make everyone comfortable. Everyone knows banner ads suck; Kurt tells you a little more about why they're still around, explores some things that might make them better, and generally straightens the dope. We're doing this in conjunction with K5, who's also got the story. So, hop back and forth, and we can all get a merry meta-discussion going.

My name is Kurt Gray, I'm the lead programmer for OSDN's ad system which serves ad banners on sites like Slashdot, Freshmeat, SourceForge, Themes, and partnering deal with Kuro5hin, etc. I open sourced our ad delivery code sometime last year and have been maintaining it in-house here as well. My quest now is to create a better ad banner delivery system, not only better for you the audience but also more useful to our sponsors. So I have some ideas about our ad system that we want to pitch to you all sitting out there reading this and your feedback on these ideas would be of great value to us. Note that this is being posted to both K5 and Slashdot because we want to get feedback from everyone we can.

First let me address two issues that have been discussed on Slashdot just recently on Micropayments instead of ads and Ad banners may soon get bigger and how these issues pertain to ad banners on the OSDN sites.

Why run ad banners? What about a tip-jar, or subscription fees, or micropayments, or donations, or bill-the-ISPs instead of ad banners?

When you're running a web site, depending on your content, your audience, the size of your staff, your overhead costs, the size and nature of your audience, and many other factors, it might be possible to get by on just subscription fees, or micropayments, or some other revenue model that does not involve selling banner ads. But the size of the audience on OSDN's web sites and the nature of the content within is such that the subscription models break down. For a network of this size and content ad banners are the only realistic way to cover costs and hopefully earn a little profit (someday we hope). Another way of looking at it is to ask yourself why does Yahoo, CNet, and ZDNet still rely on banner ads? Because for a web sites that have a lot of traffic no one has proven that there is a better way to earn more revenue with less overhead. In any large media company, advertising is it. Even with print magazines the subscription fees and cover prices don't come close to covering the costs for a large circulation magazine: the subscription fees and cover price is just a barrier-of-entry to assure the advertisers that the readership paid to read the content and therefore is the right audience to see their ads.

....but ad banners don't work! There's too many ad filters now days!

Yes, a lot of people, even entire ISPs, have ad filters and proxy rules to block out banner ads but even still there are plenty enough ad impressions delivered every day. In fact those who filter ads are doing web publishers and advertisers a favor by making sure that no time, bandwidth, or impressions are wasted on people who definately will not respond to any kind of ad. So please, filter the ads out if you feel that strongly about it, in fact, I'll pitch you some ideas further on in this article in which our ad system could help you filter out the ads which is why I'm posting this.

...but too many people ignore banner ads, and nobody clicks on them! Advertising sucks! Free your head! Prioritize, man!

Yes, many people, including myself, scroll right past banner ads and ignore them completely. But chances are you did glance at many of the ads in a web given page, perhaps you saw a logo or brand name. In that sense the ad delivered just what it intended. It's called "branding": advertising for the sake of increased brand recognition and its most of what large advertisers hope for when advertsing in any medium including the web. Smaller advertisers will obsess over response to each ad, whether that be a click, or even a sale, and thus they become very unhappy when the click-thru is not to their satisfaction. So just because click-thru percentages are low across the board doesn't mean Internet advertising is doomed, but rather advertisers expectations and ad pricing schemes are changing accordingly. The smallest fish in the pond may be doomed but the pond remains.

What can we expect from OSDN web sites as far as ad banners? Bigger fatter ads? More ads per page? Flashing noisy ads that will read my browser cache and report all suspicous keywords to the NSA?

As you might expect, we are debating internally what OSDN sites can do to stay competitive in the ad banner business. Right now we are not competitive in many areas: we only accept the most basic ad formats, most OSDN sites only accept one ad size, our average click-thru rate is as low as anywhere else, and our rate card prices are higher than most. We've been able to get away with it so far because our web sites are very well known and our audience has just the kind of demographics advertisers drool over, but lately its become a buyers market, the ad budgets are drying up and the few big advertisers still spending online are having their way with the web publishers left groveling for the business. It's times like these when advertisers can force outrageous new ad formats down the throats of the web publishers, and other web publishers are stepping up their ad offerings to entice advertisers to their space -- it's a free market economy after all.

So what are we doing about it? First we're telling our sales people to go after more main stream advertising accounts: entertainment, auto makers, food and beverage, whatever we think fits our audience. Second, we're looking at which newer ad formats and what we're willing to accept. Third, I have to rewrite our ad delivery system to improve our ad targeting: platform targeting, geotargeting, and topic targeting at the very least. Along these lines I also have some ideas I want to bounce off you there reading this here article...

Let the users control the ad delivery. User preferences. Ad filtering. User feedback. Interactive, or as George W. would say "Interactivfulness"

Here's a few scenerios, ideas I've been pitching around:

Comment forums for each ad banner:

What if you could comment on the ad banners, such as each ad banner has its own discussion forum? So if an ad bothers you, offends you, confuses you, entices you, anything about that ad, you can speak and be heard. Let's face it, many ad banners suck because nobody tells the ad agency that the creative needs improvement. On the other hand the ad may be messing with your browser and you just want someone to know about it. Or maybe you wanted whatever was being advertised, you clicked, and you still didn't get the information you were looking for, the ad feedback forum would be the place to get a response on that.

Turning off annoying ads:

Suppose you become absolutely sick and tired of seeing that "Fawking DSL!" ad or that "Punch the monkey" banner, suppose you could click a link right next to the banner "Never show me this ad again or I swear I will lose it and someone will have to call security." And you just click that link and bam, you'll never see that ad again. The number of people who turn off a particular ad could be a way of truly knowing how counter productive certain ads are.

Choice of ad topics and categories:

What if you could select which kinds of ads you want to see, and which kinds of ads you don't want to see? For example what if you could explicately set your ad preferences so that you're are more about networking, movies, gadgets, and events but you don't want to see ads for alcohol, web design, or luxury items... and these ad preferences would apply to you within whole OSDN network of web sites. Would we use your information to for demographic studies? Yes absolutely, we'd tell advertisers that we have X number of people over here who explicately told us that they'd prefer to see ads about their kind of product. The overall effect we won't waste our effort chasing after advertsiers that have nothing of interest to our community and we won't waste your bandwidth downloading ads you don't want.

What about ad system karma?

I'm thinking there could be a point-based reward system that gives you credit for everything you do that helps our advertising business. As you accumulate karma points in our ad system you could redeem them gain access to an extended set of features in the ad system itself...

To increase your ad system karma you could (Hypothetical examples)

  • 1 point for every time you load a paid ad
  • 0 points for clicking on an ad (I don't want to encourage excessive ad clicking)
  • 50 points for loading bigger ads
  • 100 points for loading a pop-up ad
  • 500 points for filling out an advertiser's survey
  • 100 points for loading a Flash ad
  • 300 points for posting a meaningful critique on an ad
  • 200 points for alerting us if an ad is broken
  • 500 points for helping us test an ad before it goes live
(Just assume for the sake of this disussion that this point system is mostly immune to people running bots to accumulate points. We're still in hypothetical land here.)

Redeem your points to gain access to such features as (Hypothetical examples)

  • Turn off all ads
  • Upload your own ads
  • Get stats on the ads you uploaded
  • Specify which sites you want your ads to run on
  • Whetever else anyone can think of...
Note that this entire karma point system is just my own personal ideas and not officially sanctioned by anyone else working here. I figured I'd bounce this off you all out there in the audience and see how it plays with you all.

How would ad system karma affect web site user karma?

It wouldn't. The ad system is totally disconnected from any web site user database. Our ad system runs ads on many web sites, so even if we felt compelled to tie it into the user accounts of any web site it would be a lot of work, too much work, and I don't see any reason to even attempt it.

So the ad system would have its own user accounts independant and unrelated to web site accounts. Does that complicate things? No, the ad system user account is low maintenance, transparent, maybe as simple as cookie, nothing too visible, not in your face all the time nagging you to come play. The ad system preferences web page could be one click away, simple web form, nothing too fancy.

Hey I don't like you spying on me! I'm going to wear a metal bowl on my head and warn the others that you're all sneaky opportunist-type people. You are one of them.

That's OK. I have my metal bowl on too. As far as these ad system ideas go, you wouldn't need to have an ad system user account if you want to be anonymous and outside the loop as far as the ad delivery goes that's fine. This user account would be something you'd actively choose to create, and if you don't bother doing so then fine, you're anonymous, unknown, you'll see the normal general rotation of banner ads, and maybe later hopefully you'll find that out food tastes better when you try out some of these features and take advantage of the bonuses.

We're a community, damnit! We're not your ad-clicking sheep! If you can't sell ads then that's your problem! One day this web site will be free of your commercial opportunist tryannical business, all the trolls will leave, this site will be cool again, and then food will taste better!

These web sites have grown way beyond the realm of affordable to operate by volunteers and donors. If OSDN and/or VA collapsed someday then the OSDN web sites would not be simply released back into the wild but rather be liquidated as assets to the highest bidder, and you can bet the new owners would gladly run these sites into the ground for every last penny they can quickly earn from them. So at least you can be glad the original founders of these web sites still work here and they care a lot about how this web site works for you, the community. And if we're not able to turn a profit here despite our best efforts, whoever ends up grabbing our helm here will most likely toss this whole crew overboard, and I can assure you that the new crew will care far less about "community" then we ever did. But that's not your problem anyway because there are plenty of other web sites out there like this one, and if you log off now you may even discover that there is whole world of amazing life outside the Internet, I don't know much about that myself so I can't descibe it to you but I've downloaded pictures of it. So is this as good as it gets for these web sites? No, we can do better here, and last week resolved to be a lot more focused. We're determined not to give Jesse Berst and his ilk any reason to gloat.

So I can't think of what else I was going to pitch here. So please if you have feedback on any of the ideas pitched above then post them here.

Kurt Gray, OSDN, ad system engineer

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Making Banner Ads Suck Less

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  • I think I could step in - I've talked with him about it. Say you worked on an OSS project you wanted to promote - this would beon way you could do that. Or, if you had a small business, you could put your company in.

    You'd be the same as a regular customer, but you'd be earning the credit towards putting ads up in a different way - not just dollars and cents.
  • Seems to me that in every discussion concerning banner ads, there's always someone who suggests that I am the spawn of Satan for daring to use an ad blocker [], and therefore depriving good, honest, useful websites of the revenue they need to survive. Its interesting to see someone involved with the ad business say that I'm doing advertisers a favour by blocking their ads 'cos I wouldn't have responded anyway. Saves them bandwidth and saves them money, too. Not everyone's unhappy ;-)

    As for the "ad karma".. well, as the Cowboy Neal interview [] showed, Slashdot karma is a game, no matter how much the editors don't want it to be. If "ad karma" engendered the same feelings, hey, I'd almost be tempted to turn off the filter for OSDN sites to I could play too!

  • Gawd - 3-4 years ago, Intel was preparing to launch the Xeon. They produced a banner ad that ran my poor little Pentium-120 into the red. I mean, it flattened my machine - I barely had the processing power to shut down Netscape.

    Happened every time I ran across that ad. I suppose it could have been unintentional bad programming, but it seemed Intel was trying to highlight the inadequacies of my processor. And nearly forced me into a hard reboot in the process.

    I think that one banner ad pissed me off more than all the 'Punch the Monkey' 'Fawking DSL' and 'Hot Horny Women' ads combined. I haven't bought an Intel product since.
  • Another example of the Open Source community leading the pack. Y'know, even if OSDN doesn't develop this, I bet you'll see this sort of thing become standard over the next year. It addresses the declining value of ads without offending readers. It also encourages users to get a login, increasing the stickiness of the site.

    If I were running I'd be all over this - it's a damn sight better than putting big, distracting ads right in the middle of the 'content'...
  • I like the t-shirt or other prizes idea, I din't think of that right off just for the sake of simplicity. Thanks for suggesting that.
  • I like the idea you pitched of posting a reason why the ad is being turned off, that's helpful. Also I would strongly object to sharing user contact info with advertisers, that'd be like selling Slashdot's user database, a total violation of trust with an audience that is too valuable to us.
  • Yes! Being able to bookmark ads! That's cool idea. One could have a single page listing hte ads they bookmarked for later.
  • One huge downside to a subscription system is that every subscriber is a paying customer, so if you have thousands of individual paid subscribers then you also need an additonal staff of customer service reps to help and support all those customers. Sure, you could farm all that to some other company who handles that sort of business for you but how much is that going to cost you? There's a certain break-even point where the cost to support a large base of subscribers makes the endeavor pay for itself and then some, so we seriously doubt we could even make a subscription service even pay for itself on any OSDN let alone make it profitbale.
  • I also watched "Merchants of Cool" and it is easy to see the parallel that cool up-and-coming web sites can sell out just like cool up-and-coming bands sell out, and then the small artsist are made into willing participants the "demand generation" machine. The ethics of the businesses talked about in "Merchants of Cool" is far more bothersome in that it demonstrates a commercial machine feeding on the emotional needs of teenagers. On the other hand I'd like to think we can break the web advertising demand cycle for more ads, bigger ads, by giving more direct control to the users. So I think the feedback loop is ethically OK as long as each participant is fully aware of the situation and allowed to knowlingly participate in how it plays out.
  • Since this *is* a user-driven website, don't you think that it is in his best interest to get user feedback on any proposed changes to the ad system? This is the first time in my life that an ad-man has ever asked *me* what I want, instead of shoveling crap down my throat, hoping against hope that I will buy their stupid products.

    I am actually excited about the 'click to never show this particular ad again' and the 'discussion forums for ad banners' ideas. The AdKarma doesn't seem like it will work, but he's just throwing out ideas here! Don't rake the guy over the coals because he had the audacity to ask the users of the sites that he serves ads for what *they* want.

    AFAICT, Mr Gray is *not* asking us to do his job for him. He's inviting us to a discussion, and throwing out some ideas, and maybe his ideas will spark even better ones.

    More power to ya' Kurt!
  • In a free market system, the products with the best price/performance ratio should win, in a Darwinian manner. In the presence of advertising however, typically the product that screams the loudest wins, and this is why ads should be outlawed and replaced by mere informational compendiums listing specifications and prices.

    Most ads directly offend the customer: "Here's how stupid you are: we can increase your likelihood of buying our car by simply showing you a hot chick, some nice music, driving through an unpolluted landscape on free roads, and then tell you that you can get $2000 cash back (without telling you the price of the car in the first place). You are such a stupid fuck, you don't even care about mileage, security ratings or features. Now have a nice day and don't forget to buy Ford."

    The most dangerous effect of advertising is that it repeatedly hammers the same message into our heads: "BUY MORE STUFF AND YOU'LL BE HAPPY!!" Instead of merely satisfying the people's material needs, as is the purpose of any economy, advertising constantly tries to create bogus new needs. This insanity has got to stop and ads should therefore be outlawed.

    No government agency is needed to enforce an advertising ban: simply let competitors sue each other for advertising. There is no first amendment issue here because economical speech doesn't enjoy full protection anyway.


  • I'll pay media companies cash money to never show me another fake windows alert banner again. It's insulting, played out and irrelevant to Macintosh, Linux and Unix. I'm continuously amazed at the lack of OS-awareness of the banner servers: a large part of the banners served to me on my Macintosh (which is what I usually use) hawk Windows-only software, Windows-only hardware or are dumbed down for the AOL-Wintel-AIM market.

    "Your Internet connection is not optimized" my ass.
  • I am not one bit interested in giving the ad-men any more information about myself than absolutely necessary. And I certainly am not interested in "rating" advertisements. If I am interested in an advertisement I click on it, if I am not, I don't.

    Slashdot is actually a good example of how this can work correctly. I find that many of the ads here on /. are quire interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I have on occassion actually clicked on their advertising link to find one of their sponsors. Slashdot may not get the amount of raw views that Yahoo! does, but it is fairly easy to guess what the denizens of /. are going to be interested in.

  • Thinking that Slashdot is just Andover's site is like thinking that NYSE is just some buildings in Wall Street.

    This is a community. The sinister Andover keiretsu puts the infrastructure, I am putting this comment, you are putting the reading, the advertisers put the money.

    If these elements start to fail, the community suffers. No infrastructure leads to bad user experience. No monay leads to bad infrastructure. No readers lead to no advertisers...

    This land is your land, this land is my land.
  • I also find the ads on Slashdot to already be fairly well targeted to my tastes. However, I would love to be able to set my preferences to make the targeting even more fine-grained.

    In fact, all the ideas listed except for ad karma sounded quite good to me.

    One other point. I'd like to specify what speed connection I have, so I can get fancy animated ads only when I'm connected via a high-bandwidth connection.
  • I love the idea of being able to disable particular ads. The "Punch The Monkey" ad is the perfect example. Not only is it the most annoying ad in the universe, but I can't even tell what those people are selling.

    The idea of being able to opt in and out of certain categories is also appealing. Probably upwards of 75% of the ads I see are for products or services I couldn't care less about. I'd prefer the ads I do have to look at to be at least marginally interesting. And the key factor is that I trust OSDN a hell of a lot more than I trust Doubleclick, as far as tracking my ad-viewing and whatnot, knowwhatImsayin?

    The karma system...? Kinda seems silly.

  • I will pay /. $10 a year to have the banners blocked for me. Sure, I could just run junkbuster, but honestly the entertainment value of /. is worth $10 a year for me.

  • I too have found some neat stuff from slashdot ads. X10, TeamExcess... and yes, the FAWKING DSL add pissed me off. if I could pick and choose my ad! wonderful! If I could earn points to run my own ads? nirvana.
  • There was a great article [] over at A List Apart [] a while ago that dealt with the problem of online advertising. The problem is far deeper than just targeting the audience better. The real problem is that banner ads, by their very nature, are not enticing to readers. What the online publications need to do is to make advertising an integral part of the site. One big problem is that banners are not constant. If I see an ad for Acme corporation and later want to learn more, I can't simply reload the page to find out about Acme. Instead, I will get another ad alltogether. How many times have you had that problem with a magazine? Also, banners usually have little or no actual information on them. This can't be good. You need information to be integrated with the ad. What needs to be done is more effort needs to be put into online advertising. Instead of regarding it as an additon to a site that pays the bills, it should be made an inseperable part of that site.
  • Its so infrequent that I can even recall the
    last click through- ThinkGeek on this site.

    I guess this is about one in ten thousand response.
  • Eh? Making up the rules as you go along is better known as innovation. Lots of businesses manage to thrive on it.
  • is hard for me to believe that advertising works on intelligent people. I don't buy anything without checking its value in terms of price, quality, and availability. My decision to buy one brand or another is based soley on those criteria.

    I'm sure you like to think so. Perhaps you're even right. But encouraging you to believe that is a fairly common marketing approach.

  • Aria, the credit card company, does something that is really quite nice in response to this. It uses Ad based point systems. They send me an advert and I look at it, if it's something that I like then I will visit the site and earn some points. If I buy it, I get even more points.

    The points, just go into little perks from using their credit card and such. Similar to the mileage plus perks. I usually click on ads, it works, and it's quite non-intrusive. They send light weight emails out, with a brief description of the product and how many points you receive.

    Best ad campaign I have seen.

  • What I would like is a hybrid dynamic/static ad system. The ad itself can be random, but once I've seen it, it should remain each time I return to a specific page.
    Actually this is a good point. Few people out there have ad avoidance skills more highly developed than mine (in fact, right now i'm using an "ad filtering" system called lynx), but there was one time slashdot had an ad up that caught my eye: a picture of Philip Greenspun. I'd already clicked on something else before I started wondering "Hey, what was that an ad for?" So in this case the "bookmarkable" ad feature would not have been helpful. The quasi-static idea would make more sense: if you hit the back button you should get back what you had before.

    (But when you come down to it, this one-and-only ad that caught my attention: it was probably just and ad for Philip and Alex's guide to website design. A book I'd already bought and read, or else I wouldn't have recognized Greenspun's photo. So even in this case, the ad was useless: my opinion is that advertising is doomed, as are most commercial web sties... without a new revenue model, the internet is going to return to a volunteer-supported activity. What a shame that would be, eh?)

  • The whole idea behind a karma-type system is that you want to reward behavior that you want, and discourage behavior you don't want. Unless you're omniscient, you're not going to build the perfect karma system on the first or even the second, third or fourth tries. It requires tuning and adjustment. People *will* find holes in your system, and exploit them. So you make adjustments, and eventually you make the costs of exploiting holes not really worth it. Most of the complaints about slashdot karma stem from the fact that it really hasn't undergone a lot of tuning.

    A good example of a karma-like system is the shops in the game nethack. The devteam has generally indicated that there are two 'approved' ways to get objects from shops: paying for them, and getting your pet to steal from the shop for you. This was originally enforced by making shopkeepers tough (generally tougher than the average adventurer can have a hope of killing), and having them be human, with an in-game penalty for killing a fellow human. To make simply teleporting out of a shop with stuff less attractive, the Keystone Kops were added. Also the shopkeeper himself would track you down and beat the stuffing out of you.

    This was roughly the state of shops when I started playing back in version 2.2. There were literally dozens of ways around these deterrents to shoplifting-- dig a hole in the shop's floor and jump through, dig a second entrance to the shop, use a high-powered wand on the shopkeeper, teleport objects out of the shop and go grab them elsewhere, etc. Over the years, things have been added to the game that negate these: if you jump down a hole in a shop, the shopkeeper grabs your pack so then he has all your stuff, shopkeepers repair holes in shop walls, shopkeepers stay out of direct wand path when you're a distance away from them, shopkeepers keep track of stuff teleported out of the shop and charge you for them anyways, etc. The effect is that nowadays, the 'approved' ways to get items from shops are generally the easiest. The game has been tuned that way in response to player abuse.

    So, yes of course, no karma system is perfect. But it doesn't have to be-- all it has to do is keep up with those who try to abuse it. Takes a little effort, but what doesn't?

  • OlympicSponsor,
    The fact that you are being attacked anonymously sickens me. I cannot allow this to continue without doing my part to help rectify the situation.

    You are a jackass.

    There, now you've got at least one person expressing his opinion of you while logged in.


  • by LYM ( 16612 )
    The banner at the top of this page has an ALT text tag with "Click Here!". That's it. *Why?* Why on earth would I click on that?

    If it said "IBM 75GXP. 7200rpm. ATA/100. $200." I'd click. But if it said "Click here for great savings on hardware", I would NOT click.

    See the pattern here? Give me information that actually makes me interested, and I might follow up. Give me a teaser and I won't be bothered, because they almost always lead to something lame. Advertise what you're selling! That's what you want me to buy, isn't it? If it's not good enough or cheap enough, I'm not going to buy it even if I do click through.

    And on the issue of popups and redirects: for crying out loud, don't advertisers realise they have competitors? Competitors who have the same goods at the same prices and *didn't* waste 30 seconds of my precious time! Who will I buy from? Some moron apparently did a study and discovered that annoying ads are remembered best by viewers. No kidding. We remember them in the same way that we hold a grudge.

    (And gee I'm glad people are starting to use Flash for ads. It means I can now load all the images on a page and still not have to see the ads.)

    If you get the impression that I think advertisers are morons and their own worst enemies... well I guess that would be just about right.

    But the question was more about innovative features. So here's my idea. When you're surfing, you're interested in something else than the ads. But you might see something that interests you and you might check out later. But how do you get that link back later on? Figure out a technology where I can flag ads as interesting and return to them later on, without interrupting my browsing experience at the time. Obviously this can't involve re-loading the page after indicating interest; that's too obtrusive and time-consuming. It can't add the link to my personal bookmarks for every ad; that would just be a PITA. But it could add a single link (if it didn't already exist) to a page that has all the links from ads I was interested in; something cookie-based I guess. I don't know how this might be done, but that's something I would actually use.

    It might be that a fool and his money are easily parted, but it's time advertisers realised the true implication of this: there aren't many fools who have money.
  • > Well, for starters, you would have to pay for most sites.

    I didn't have to pay for most sites back before the Web went all-commercial.

    Or rather, "almost" all-commercial. Some of the most useful sites that I visit now still don't have ads, and I still don't have to pay to visit them.

  • > Yeah really, to sabotage this business model, have the client download the image, but send it straight to /dev/null ...

    That's why I call it YASIBM. It's the same deal that C(l)ue(less)Cat discovered: if the customer can find a workaround, the customer will find a workaround. And use it.

    If you don't want your e-business to be YASIBM, then you need to do one of the following:
    • use a scheme that the users can't work around, or
    • use a scheme that won't hurt you too much if the users do work around it.
    Notice that users do work around televison commercials, but the t-business model is designed where the networks don't die when that happens. By contrast, e-business is trying a more heavy-handed approach, and companies are dying as a result.

    Like everything else in life, e-businesses need to consider the difference between what they can do and what they should do. (In this case, I use "should" in the sense of "if they are smart" rather than "if they are ethical".)

  • > You all know that without banner ads, the web wouldn't be what it is today.

    Who says the Web is better now than what it used to be?

  • > Taking a leak during a TV commercial is different, and here's why: Web sites usually get paid per banner impression.

    OK, you've convinced me that the e-advertising business is based on YASIBM (Yet Another Stupid Internet Business Model). I'm having a little trouble working up any sympathy for them, as the saying goes.

  • First off, let me say thanks for some good ideas. I'll not comment in detail because I don't know which ones would work. I suspect that the only real way of know what will work is to try them out on a test audience or in the wild.

    I suspect that the karma idea might not work. Maybe. My gut feeling is that the simpler the idea, the more effective. I suspect the response rate to the karma idea might make it unfeasible.

    However, my main complaint about banner ads is the fact that (A) the html code for the banner ad rarely, in my experience, has the HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes filled in. This means, naturally, that the page can't really start to load properly until it has received that gif image from the ad server. (B) It would appear that many ad servers are running very slow machines ["No, no. They can't be running on a '286! It just feels that way!"] or have a narrow pipe or whatever, because the ad is frequently the last bloody file to load to my browser!

  • See, that's the problem. These might be good ideas for advertisers (the illusion of interactivity is good for getting attention), but the content wouldn't be taken at face value.

    If someone clicks "I really hate this ad, never show it to me again!" the people who made it go "Yay! They looked at it! They saw it so many times they got sick of it! We're geniuses!" and work on the next generation of even more annoying ads.

    This, of course, isn't considering the obvious trick: fake feedback tools. Seriously, you don't think 90% of "This ad sucks" links will just link to the same page?
  • That's a very interesting idea, but I don't think it would work just that simply. Everybody would just set the ad threshold very up and nobody would be any wiser.

    But... Combine ad karma and moderator karma, as in the postings. The moderators could moderate some ads up and some down. Then the system could generally give them out according to the karma level. Even low-karma ads would be shown, but not as often as the high-karma ones (which should be most interesting to the audience).

    Being a moderator and moderating would be a wanted thing exactly the same way as being a post-moderator is: you can directly affect the appearance of the site. Every user (who is willing to be a moderator) has a karma level that affects how often (s)he gets moderator access.

    The main problem would be rating the moderators. A simple way of doing it would be to check similarity with other moderators. If 50+ people moderate an ad up and one moderates it down, then the moderator gets a -1 hit (the karma level should probably be invisible to the user - otherwise somebody could get angry). With time the individuals who have a differing opinion from the main population would start getting moderation access fewer and fewer times.

    Another method to rate moderators would be through some kind of meta-moderation.

    Of course, this does not take into account individual wishes. Therefore everybody (who logs in) could set +5 for this category and -10 for that company. They could affect what ads they see, but not remove them (without ad filters). (Of course, moderating an ad could at the same time moderate its category, style, advertiser, company, etc.)

    This system would give response to the advertisers too, in the form of a karma level (I doubt very much response would be given in discussion forums, except for really bad ads. And a -64 karma should say just about the same thing anyway...). All in all, the system might just become a self-fulfilling moderating system from which everybody (or at least the vast majority) benefits.

    As to the comment [] on persistent ads, I don't think that would really work. Advertisers want to get as many different ads to you as possible. Instead, there could be a page where you could browse the latest ads you've seen. Or perhaps a link "View the ads I've seen on this page before?". Or like was replied [] a "Save/bookmark this ad" link.
  • what you want is a checkbox on your user advertising profile that says "texts only ads."
  • Some sites already do this. I just got a $50 Circuit City gift card for occasionally clicking on sites sent to me by MyPoints ( They give you a few points for visiting the site, some more for actually registering with or buying from a site, and then you can redeem them for Valuable Prizes (tm). If you have a spam-catcher account and a little free time, give it a try.
  • Yep. I'd definitely hit a "Don't show me this ad." And cuz I like the cute and cuddly Mr.'s Hemos and Taco, I'd also click on a "Not seeing the ads for stuff you're trying to buy?" button. That's where we go into a form and click on buttons for stuff we are actively trying to buy but not seeing ads for on slashdot.

    Yes, some of us actually buy things, and WANT to see ads for them.
  • I'm probably alone on Slashdot, in that I don't have a mild case of paranoia about advertisers knowing all about me. I want advertisers to know about me.

    There's an awful lot of products out there in the world, and most of them are pretty hard to find without good ole advertising and the web. My Eclipse desklamp, for example, I discovered on a Slashdot banner ad. I love it. I wish I would have found a Philips Expandium CD-MP3 player banner ad instead of searching for it for the perfect CD-MP3 player for a week.

    What do I want? I want to be able to comment on ads definately. I want to be able to mark certain ad categories as interesting to me. I'd love to be able to turn certain ad categories off. And most importantly, I'd like to see fewer animated ads.
  • Ten dollar pearls? Where can I purchase this
    exquisite finery? I shall be the, erm, queen
    of the Internet!
  • Oops.

    Hangs head in shame.

  • You can't depend on the readers to run this site for you

    I dunno, Kuro5hin [] does pretty well using that model.

  • Kurt, You must think about what advertising is and what advertising is not. Advertising is not a banner ad outside the borders of the content screen. If you want to run ads, I mean real ads for big money, run ads as stories. Make them part of a certain category if you want people to be allowed to disable them (like Katz stories). Allow comments just like regular stories. Then people can flame ads for companies that they don't like, and even negative attention is good attention for advertisers. Or other people can point out more useful insightful information about the thing brought up. Ads of course would have to have some interesting text that gets the message across and not just buzwords or attempts to get click-throughs. The articles would be marked as advertisements. If you are going to advertise, advertise. Make sure /. gets paid big bucks for it. Oh, I forgot to mention. No images in the ads! No animation, and no special coloring. This advice does not apply to kuro5hin of course since articles are chosen by the readers. (if you object to this idea and not banners, I'd like to know what the difference is)
  • #ifndef troll
    #define troll

    This_is_spam.c:5: unbalanced `#endif'

  • "Comment forums for each ad banner"

    So we can do your market research for you?

    "What about ad system karma?"

    So OSDN will devolve into the flashy ads network?

    "That's OK. I have my metal bowl on too."

    Yeah, that sucks. Perhaps we should be coming up with different, better solutions?

    "We're a community, damnit! We're not your ad-clicking sheep! If you can't sell ads then that's your problem! One day this web site will be free of your commercial opportunist tryannical business, all the trolls will leave, this site will be cool again, and then food will taste better!"

    Amen ;) Ok, maybe I'm just still pumped from last night's Frontline ("The Merchants of Cool"), but I'm really fed up with vicious circle of "demand generation". Instead of just trying to increase the speed of the process (let's find better ways to make ads to catch more people who will have to find better ways to avoid ads so that we have to find better ways to make ads to...), I think we should be trying to find ways out of this advertising nightmare. Ok, so perhaps micropayments aren't the silver bullet. I'd still like to be able to click a button and give some change as a tip after reading a good article, than be surrounded by advertising everywhere I go. Maybe that's not enough, but shit, "tough". Perhaps sites will revert back to smaller, more intense communities, who are more willing to shell out for real content...instead of site after banal site of regurgitated, non-differentiated content supporting itself by dreary. (ok, perhaps I'm smoking on the nostalgia pipe).

    I'd seriously plunk down a micropayment, for, e.g., some of the interviews Slashdot has done, or reviews of technology, etc. Same for the in-depth reviews on Ars-Technica, Tom's Hardware, and some of the good articles on Wired. Not only would I not have to deal with ads, but I'd get the warm fuzzy feeling of doing the "right thing" while at the same time building up a loyalty to the site because I know that I'm probably one of the exclusive in-club that actually *does* tip.

    Let's stop trying to get the addict to help us design better drugs, and instead try to get the addict OFF the drugs.
  • You have a bunch of people with similar core interests... why not try to negotiate discounts for certain products while receiving a kick back for each Slashdot-purchase? Many companies can be suckered into a lower margin if they think they can get higher volume.
  • Users are greedy. If you want this system to work, you shouldn't be giving away karma, but money.

    If you have enough "karma ad" points, then you can get the latest cool item at thinkgeek. _That_ might work. You'll have to face the problem of cheating though...

  • I'd like it to be easy to get a list of the banner adds on a site. Occasionally I notice an add, click on something else (the story of the day or something), then remember that I wanted to see that add only it's too late. A nice - easy to get to index of adds served on the page would be helpful here.
  • Advertising on slashdot as it stands now is doomed to fail. You cannot have tack an ad system onto something, you really have to integrate it. I don't think there is any way around that fact.

    The advertising potential of slashdot us huge. I have spent so much money on stuff that has been suggested by slashdot articles or that I read about in somebody's comments. I maybe once looked for some gifts by clicking on a slashdot ad.

    The problem with ads is the same as the problem of slashdot without a moderation system. You don't know what you are really going to get until you look into it. Ads are sold to the highest bidder and there isn't somebody that is much like me reviewing them saying, "this is something you should look into."

    Do you know how many people visit my website because I put links in my signature that I think people will find useful? Its a lot. Something like that is the best way to get make advertising on slashdot work.

    I would visit something if it is given a testimonial by people that I respect on slashdot. If people were given the option of testimonials to slashdot advertised products in their sigs and could somehow receive some benefit from doing so, I would be much more likely to visit.

    If you could work out some way to rate sigs that is separate from comment moderation and have some threshold that somebody's sig has to cross to be visible.... And of course and easy interface for people to see what products are available for their testimonial.

    Nobody wants to give up their journalistic integrity by caving in to advertisers, but I don't think that its any better to advertise things that you wouldn't yourself recommend.

  • Having worked with advertising/promotions/marketing companies, I can tell you this: they pay companies big bucks to find out what works & what doesn't in the way of ads. I don't like banners, but I hate companies being able to "target" me more accurately more.

    Besides, there's only 3 results that can come from this: a) assuming Slashdot, et al. put in some sort of "approval-disapproval" system for free, ad agencies get for free what they'd normally pay viewers for, as well as pay a company to do the analysis for. b) assuming Slashdot puts in a system and charges for it, they get the cash, the ad agency gets the standard info, and we may/may not get better ads because people will randomly click on stuff like this without motivation. c) assuming Slashdot pays individuals somehow, whether through cash or karma or whatever, the customer probably won't get paid the standard rate for being a "guinea pig" - around $50 an hour, so they're giving their info/opinion up for cheap.

    Don't help the advertisers; they get plenty of money for doing little or nothing anyway, so charge 'em plenty for the privlage of easy jobs.

  • I think the single most important item in Kurt's suggestions is the feedback loop from viewer to advertiser. Too damn many advertisers are running open loop - the flashing banner ads on the 'Net, the stupid "7 up yours!" ads on TV, the blasted "CARGANZA" commercials on radio turn people off, but the advertisers don't know because there is no way to provide negative feedback. If I could (for example, since it's sitting right in front of me) tell ThinkGeek to lose the animated GIFS and just show me the damn product, I'd do it. And I like Thinkgeek!

    I'd LOVE to be able to tell advertisers "I blocked your ad, because your damn server is overloaded and the ad took too long to load", or "I don't like javascript in ads, goodbye", or "Cookies? I don' need no steenkeen cookies", because they might actually LEARN from this and improve the ads (before you say advertisers cannot learn: even flatworms can learn.)

    Perhaps if /., k5 et. al. start doing this, we can start a new trend.
  • Even better than letting users specify preferences (which I wouldn't expect more than 10% of users to do) would be to set up a collaborative-filtering system. Record if the user says he/she likes or dislikes the ad (or clicks on it), record how other logged-in users respond to various ads, and use that to guess which ads this user is most likely to respond positively to. Allow users to opt out of this system, of course.

    I think the open-source world needs a good collaboritive filtering tool anyway, and this would be a great reason for someone to create one. It's too bad that firefly [] sold its technology when it wasn't doing well (?) rather than releasing it under an oss license.
  • Let's make non-animated gif or png ads a little cheaper than animated gif or mng ads. An an-rating system (or even a comment forum about each ad) should take care of the problem of some animated ads being excessively annoying.
  • The idea of ad feedback is a good one. There are several times where i have stopped reading an ad or even a site because it was continually displaying some incredibly annoying ad. As for the karma stuff, I figure I would ignore that, much like I do the message posting karma, I just don't care that much.

    As for pop-ups, the day slashdot shows a pop-up ad is the day I stop reading it.
  • Hey Kurt, great job. You've come up with some really interesting ideas.

    Ideas I like: Comment forums, turn off annoying ads, choice of ad topics.

    Ideas I don't like: pop-up ads, flash ads.

    I'm a little creeped out by the idea of ad-karma, but if you could come up with some better rewards I could see myself going for the idea. Perhaps you should consider additional rewards, such as:

    • donate karma-earned ad space to a nonprofit (EFF, EPIC, LinuxPPC)
    • free stuff: stickers, Debian CDs, independent music CDs... I'm sure you can think up useless little items that'll cost you 1 cent but will have value to the readers. "d00d, check out my Slashdot keychain..."

    Don't bother trying to make us earn the right to turn off ads, though, we're smart enough to do it ourselves already without having to jump through hoops. You have to offer something we don't already have.

  • At least he didn't say "First Post!!" ;-)
  • I agree entirely with Shoeboy on this one.

    The mod points are worth it.

    Olympic Sponsor, I've seen your posts. I've never enjoyed one. Bring me something with grit, and when you troll bring me something with grits. You sir, are quite boring.

  • I think that I personally would get a kick (and a lot of experience) from critiqueing the ads that I see and hearing others opinions of my critiques as well as other opinions.

    Surely the easiest way of improving the ads that we see would be to open them up to criticism and set a certain standard. I'm not proposing that we only allow Open Source ads and geek ads, but finely constructed ads. Ads that make us laugh, ads that make us smile, ads that make us think, are far more valuable than just the ad from the company that had the money to put it up.

    Perhaps /. or K5 aren't the best places to do such a thing but I think that there is a place for such critiqueing and people that would enjoy doing it.

    If you want to compete for my mindshare........take my opinion into account.

  • As a VAR, and someone the clients call when they screw something up, the ads I hate most are the ones that look like a Windows popup box. I've had 10 calls in the last week from people who clicked on the "Your connection is not optimized" ad somewhere... most of the time they were trying to click the little X in the corner to close it. The monkey I can live with... but the phone calls about those are driving me to the brink of insanity.
  • > These web sites have grown way beyond the realm > of affordable to operate by volunteers and > donors.

    I'm getting tired of seeing this line repeated around town these days. Many people will remember that we had and still have, a functioning message forum system for the same tens of thousands of people who read slashdot. It's called usenet. If slashdot and sites like it go into the toilet, rest assured that usenet, moderated usenet & listserv's will be waiting for us. In fact, maybe someone will come up with a way to structure a newsgroup like slashdot.
  • Click on an ad - that's been the only method of communication.
    But I'd much prefer being able to do more then click or not - being able to request more info

    There are interactive ads that do essentially what you suggest (the mega ads on CNET and some IBM ads).
  • When I'm making a large purchase, of course I research it before buying it. But, if I see an ad for a t-shirt from ThinkGeek or something that looks appealing, I may very well just buy it without researching it. Are there other places that sell t-shirts? Of course. But, for some things it's a matter of convinience.

  • It's exactly like that one comment [] said in the "bigger banner ads" thread yesterday (hey, what do you know, it was Shoeboy). He said that slashdot was posting it in order to soften us up for changes to the Slashdot revenue system. Looks like he was right

    Not so (Score:5, Funny) now eh?


  • Absolutely, and if you offer tangible benefits to having karma, it worsens things by far. Offering an option to turn off all banners for x points of karma - good idea; I'm sure that nobody will be a whore (fill out a few forms perhaps?) in order to reach that.

    It *might* work better if you don't let people know how much karma they've got. That way, they can't boast about it even to themselves and they don't know how far they have to go to reach the next "goal", although if this was implemented I imagine we'd get a slashdot story one day: "OSDN Ad Banner Scoring System Found! (from the some-people-have-too-much-time dept.)"

  • by Wanker ( 17907 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @09:15AM (#396074)

    This would work best in conjunction with a link to show detailed ad information, in particular the "classifications" the ad company has supplied to reach their target market. (i.e. "perl", "hard drives", "CPUs", "php", "developers wanted", "snack foods", etc.)

    Classifications are usually created not by technicians, but by some marketing drone who probably has a hard time spelling CPU. A discussion forum and the ability to moderate up well-classified, interesting ads would help good ads get a better clickthru.

    The big problem with moderation like this is that each company pays for a certain number of impressions. If their ad sucks, and gets moderated down, the OSDN may not be able to meet their stated number of impressions before the end of the ad campaign.

    There needs to be some way to provide positive motivation for companies to put up "good" ads. Rather than fiddling with the ad frequencies, perhaps OSDN could just create a "showcase" page which shows the ads in order of their moderation totals. "Good" ads could be recognized and "bad" ads would also be recognized. ;-) Another thought might be to give the highest-rated ads additional run time for no charge. Perhaps the best ads could go on the front page and all the others would only be shown deeper in?

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @08:25AM (#396075)
    Well, if you're willing to try out Mozilla, they've added hidden preferences in release 0.8 that will let you turn that off. They say that there will be a UI for it soon. The description can be found here [].

    Trust me. It works great. I've been using Mozilla as my regular browser since 0.7 came out, and it's come a long way since the M## builds.
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:12AM (#396076) Journal
    #define troll

    I saw it over on Kuro5hin already! ;) And, after all, cross posting is spam.

  • by gotan ( 60103 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @09:40AM (#396077) Homepage
    Ok, i was always curious about that "How tough is Linux" banner ad, the colors are nice, the animation is funny, but not too flashy, and it made me a little curious. But my general rule is: "clicking on an ad brings you somewhere you don't want to be, so don't do it".
    Now, maybe just to have a say in this thread i clicked on the ad. Where it got me was a page where i could subscribe to a magazine. The page promises it'll take only 5 minutes and it's free anyway, so what have i got to loose? Well, the answer is simple: time. I don't want to wade through a tediuos subscription process before i can even have a look at the content. The whole experience is analogous to being invited somewhere i'm not too willing to go anyway, and then run into a locked door.
    I don't know if the site is interesting or not, maybe later someone tells me it's interesting and i'll subscribe. But after they got my attention so far that i "clicked through" why don't the make every effort to use that very short attention span the everyday websurfer has for anything he's not actively searching and present something that might catch my interest and draw me in?
    And mind you, i don't find Linux Benchmarks (the main argument for subscribing) uninteresting at all, i'd just have liked to look at some before subscribing. I even bothered to look at that frontpage for something that would lead me to some examples at least (better would have been the possibility to view it without subscribing).

    Other click-through experiences so far have been:
    - The site that pops up 3 windows all over the screen, and whenever i kill one it spawns two more. (no more javascipt then, ok)
    - The site that requires me to download a plugin before i can even start entering it, let alone navigating.
    - The site that requires my undivided attention in terms of bandwidth to even load the front page for some minutes. (Ctrl+W)
    - The site which has it's code so botched up, it crashes my Browser
    - The site that decided this is the place i want to be and made itself a oneway road (disabling the back button)
    - The site that enlarges my Browser window across the whole screen (Ctrl-W even before the content loads)
    - The site that opens up in a new window (if i want that i'll do it myself, thank you)
    - The site that has so many banners on it's front page i can't even find the way to the sites' content.
    - The site that first requires a subscription before i may enter (and i thought you wanted me here, apparently not)
    - The site i just can't figure out what it is for, or what it tries to sell, but it's flashy and tells me i should bookmark it
    - The site that can only navigated by opening a new window for each klick
    - The "under construction" site
    - The "server not found" site
    - The "404, page not found" site

    Admittedly, sometimes i get someplace useful (freshmeat), but that place i would probably have stumbled over anyway even without a banner to click, either because friends tell me, or i find it in a search query, or it's linked from somewhere.
    So after all these experiences with ad-clicking i wonder that people still click on ads at all, since more often than not it will just take some time to load, and if the Browser survived ... Ctrl-W.
  • by jesser ( 77961 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:05AM (#396078) Homepage Journal
    I like the idea that I might be able to try out advertising for parts of my site without putting any money up front. That would allow me to get some idea of what parts of my sites people like and which parts they think are pointless. I don't make money off of my website, but if I got a lot of positive feedback (through e-mail or through a slashdot forum devoted to my ad), I might pay a reasonably low rate to keep running these ads, just because slashdot has turned me into a positive-feedback whore :) Or maybe I'd put ads on my own site or do something original like buying a .com or .org domain name for myself, who knows.

    I can just see future conspiracy theories: the karma cap is part of a master plan to deprive karma whores of the positive feedback they love so much, and make them post ads for their own site (which previously got one hit a week), first for free, and later for money.

    Some people might even put up humorous ads that don't link anywhere, just to burn off ad karma. This could be a good thing: it might get people to look at the ads instead of just scrolling past them, and it would be entertaining. But it might also mean that the exchange rate of points for ad views would have to be low. (As long as nobody tries to advertise the goatse site with what looks like a thinkgeek banner ad, I'll be happy.)

    What do you think of letting slashdot users who don't have anything of their own to advertise give their ad points to someone who's advertising a "completely free" site (no ads, not selling anything)?

    (Btw, does anyone know the minimum amount of money you have to put into a Google adwords [] account to try out an ad?)

    P.S. I'm over the karma cap, so please accuse me of not-very-subtly plugging for my site rather than karma whoring.
  • by epcraig ( 102626 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:25AM (#396079)
    Banner ads on Lynx are a waste.
    Apparently, the only text available is limited to "Click Here!"
    I somehow doubt that many using text browsers ever "Click Here!".
    Now, I ask you, why not include a hint of what you're advertising? For all I know I might be missing something historic, perhaps the first Microsoft ad on slashdot. (I still like the C'T Mutant Penguins, that ad pegged Linux, if only by accident).
  • by sherpajohn ( 113531 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:55AM (#396080) Homepage
    I think that the user-based ad system is one of the most interesting ideas I've heard in a long time. It completly changes the dynamic of the advertising relationship.

    I am one of those weirdos who actually goes out of his way to experience certain forms of advertising, while avoiding others. I frequently spend decent amounts of my time howling with laughter and amazement at ads I view on [], while at the same time most of the TV I watch is taped, so I can skip over the same annoying ad that gets shown 6 times during a one hour prime time show.

    How does this relate to banner ads this article and comment by Hemos? well, I like choice, be it what sort of products I am exposed to, or what sort of advertising I like...what if there was a way to give a hint of some fancy high end flash type ad through a little banner? I might click on it, if I think the art looks really cool...if I saw ads that categorized accordning to some preferences I had specified, or were geographically targeted (upcoming conserts,movie times...whatever) I would surely be more likely to click-through.

    All in all, I have to say I was very impressed, and quite amused with the honest and interesting ideas proposed here.

    Going on means going far
    Going far means returning
  • by paulywog ( 114255 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:17AM (#396081)
    It seems to make some sense that people in support of the Free Software and Open Source movements should also be in support of a user-based ad distribution system -- it promotes a certain freedom of choice.

    I don't mind seeing adds. There are some adds that I see and make me aware of something I've never seen or heard of before. But then there are other ads that just piss me off. Popup adds are especially bad, in my opinion, because I hate those extra windows just flying up without my permission. Some people hate banner ads because the sit there and flash their obnoxious message on the page you're trying to read.

    So, what should a customizable, user-based ad system provide:
    • Obviously there have to be ads involved, or the advertisers won't be very accepting. Perhaps users shouldn't even be given the option to completely turn off ads.
    • Users should be able to select what kind of ads they want to see. If I only want to see Linux hardware ads, that's what I should be able to see! Advertisers should be mostly OK with this - it's the most targeted advertising system you can have. The disadvantage is that there's less cross-selling going on for the advertisers.
    • The user should be able to customize how those adds appear.
      Location inline on the page,
      In a new window,
      All adds in one separate window,
      Text based,
      No animation

    What else? Maybe we should have an opensource project to develop a better advertising system. Then there can be a nice little backdoor that will spam the advertsing company employees with thousands of ads every day.

  • by Luminous ( 192747 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:22AM (#396082) Journal
    I have a similar experience to this. But in my case, I will be working on a project and need something. I remember that somewhere on one of the sites I visit I saw an ad for something that might help me. But since the ad banners rotate, I spend a lot of time reloading webpages. If a website could keep and index of advertisers it would help refine that process. At this time I have no need for the QuestionExchange, tomorrow I might, but do you think I'm diligent enough to write down or remember the details of it? Click thru rates depend upon me clicking, at this second, on the banner. But at this second, I am more interested in responding to the forum, not exploring ads.
  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:05AM (#396083) Homepage
    I have to agree, interesting ads regularly obtain my attention. Without advertising I would never have heard of many sites which I visit regularly, or certain products that are innovative and that I wouldn't have looked for on my own (software/hardware/whatever). However there is at least one type of ads I truly hate, the misleading ones that are made to look like a clickable form or those damned scrollbar things. Although I'm not fooled by these mock ups, i'm sure many others can't tell the difference, the non-technical ones especially. That's pure deception and it's just shy of fraud.
  • by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <.gundbear. .at.> on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @10:30AM (#396084) Homepage
    I wish targetted ads work!

    Do you know what I want to see?

    I want to know about shows and performances in my area. If the Circus comes to town. If Cirque Du Soleil is playing. If Stomp! or whatever hot new show is there.

    I want the link to connect to a ticket office, to schedules and fares, to a map service, and reviews of the performance.

    I want to know about music performances as well, of Taiko drums and Chinese acrobats and martial arts tournaments in the area.

    How do we get the banner ads to work like this?

    For product or services, I rely on Google. I want a new video card? I do a Google search on the appropriate websites. I look for "video card reviews performance price"

    But for topical, local, and timely information, Google isn't very good.

    And I don't want to be always trawling various ticket sites for what's new. I just want to know if Disney's Lion King on Ice is in the area, or something.

    I'm sure that's worthy of advertising as much as anything else!

    Geek dating! []
  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @07:08AM (#396085)
    I prefer the manufactures to have a web site properly listed with a search engine. If I want Ink Jet refill ink or Toner, I'll search for the best deal including shipping, bulk pricing, tools & supplies. Make sure the prices are listed. If the web site is only a brand impression site, I move on to products I can compare. Without prices, the product is not considered. What could better for advertisers than shoppers that are actualy looking for the product? Be there when I search! People who have to take the risk of entering a credit card online are not likely to impulse buy products. Banner adds are not the same as a Point Of Sale display ad in a store designed to generate an impulse purchase.

    Net savy shoppers who do shop online rarely take the first product offered. It's seldom the best deal. Excessive advertising usualy indicates cheap goods with high markup and low value. Common examples are the flashy bouncing credit cards and of course the punch the monkey, mouse etc.

  • by Ananova ( 255600 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:10AM (#396086)
    People don't, I think, mind ad banners. In fact, they will click on them if they are interesting. For instance, I clicked on an ad for an interview with John Carmack the other day because it was interesting.

    If you give people interesting ads, they will click. It's different to the real world. Since the success of ads is measured by clickthroughs (i.e. internet advertising is a direct sales route), then what you have to do is give people things they are directly interested in.

    So things like those ads for $10 pearls, will fail on /., at least by the direct sales=success approach of the internet (cf. other media, where it's indirect growth that is measured), but an advert for a book about Perl might succeed.

    As to successful indirect advertising (increasing sales, although not through clickthroughs), this is a different issue, and depends on a level of obtrusiveness that internet ads don't have. You can't make a catchy ad to sell rubbish on the internet, simply because that kind of full screen, 3-minute TV ads don't work, because you only have a few pixels on the screen.

    Thus although traditional advertising is about selling people things they don't want, when selling online, you have to try and sell people things they do want - it's just a matter of finding the right people. And this, of course, is where profiles come in.

    For the success of sites such as /., advertising must be effective, and to do this, advertisers need to know about you. The number one priority for online advertisers is to get the right ad in front of the right person, and for this ad cookies are vital for the survival of advertising-supported websites.
  • by ksanjabi ( 320941 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @08:33AM (#396087)
    >I think it was for HP, but that wasn't important The fact that you remembered that it was from HP was a sign the ad worked as intended. The "Invent" campaign you mention for HP was a pure branding campaign that supports HP's new tagline "Invent." HP didn't ask you to click on it, and if you ignored it or if you decided to mess around with it, that is your choice. This banner and some others that my company did for HP can be viewed at: []

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:22AM (#396088)
    > People don't, I think, mind ad banners.

    I mind them.

    One reason is the distracting animations that make it hard to read the content I went to the site to read in the first place. Another reason is that I do most of my surfing over a dialup connection to a not particularly fast ISP, and I dislike having to wait for images to download just so I can read the content I went to the site to read in the first place.

    Notice that a solution to both of my complaints would be to use simple text for ads. Sometimes "simpler" works better than "in-your-face". Text ads may not be quite so quick to catch the eye, but then they aren't catching my eye at all as it is. (I turn off automatic image downloading, and I quit visiting sites altogether if they make me wade through too much annoyance to get to the subject matter.)

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:45AM (#396089)
    > In effect, people who block banner ads are biting the hand that feeds them in a most immature and selfish manner.

    Is it also immoral to get up to take a leak during a television commercial? Or to use "technological means" to flip to another station?

  • by lal ( 29527 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:26AM (#396090)
    I occasionally click ads on Slashdot or; hardly ever on Yahoo, Salon, etc. Why? Because Slashdot is targeted to some of my interests.

    Given the opportunity to specify interests for all OSDN banner ads, I'd do it. I think it would increase click-thru in addition to letting you shop around a targeted demographic. Seems like a win-win. Bring it on.
  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:20AM (#396091)
    - Fill them with pornographic images

    But, wouldn't this make them suck more?

    I'm sorry. I just had to ask.

  • by Relic of the Future ( 118669 ) <> on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:13AM (#396092)
    So, if I spend months and months downloading all kinds of annoying ads, then, in the end I'm rewarded with the ability to... not have to download annoying ads. Ummm. Why don't I just filter them before hand and not bother? If you want to reward people for seeing ads, have you considered going for something concrete, like, I dunno, a free /. t-shirt, or discounts on whatever it is your advertisers are selling?

    God does not play dice with the universe. Albert Einstein

  • by Bad_CRC ( 137146 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:35AM (#396093)
    This reminds me of a recent commercial by IBM where they paraded dozens of consumers in front of the camera complaining "I want advertisers to know about me, about what I like, about what I buy, about my habits."

    It literally sent chills down my spine. But, I guess there are many people who do follow that belief. Personally, I'm not the kind of person who would be comfortable going into a shoe store and having the person there know every kind of shoe I had owned, or to have telemarketers quote to me which magazines I had ever held subscriptions to, or any one of dozens of other examples where my right to privacy was taken away.


  • by atrowe ( 209484 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:21AM (#396094)
    I, like many other Slashdot users, find myself mildly annoyed by most of the banner ads served on Slashdot.

    (Slashdot Cruiser, anyone).

    Perhaps this wouldn't be such an issue if I weren't stuck on a 33.3 dialup connection, but as it stands, even with the "Light" version of Slashdot selected in my user info, some of the articles can take several minutes to load.

    Obviously if Slashdot is to remain a free website available to anyone, they need to keep banner ads on their site, so what can be done to alleviate some of the annoyance that current banner advertising can cause? I propose a targeted advertising system that tracks user's preferences based upon the stories they read most often. This would require placing another cookie on a users computer with a unique ID string that Slashdot would use to keep track of what Slashdot stories a particular user reads. Let's say for example you frequently enjoy Slashdot's Anime section. Your cookie would reflect this information and you would be delivered ads for new Anime releases at each page load. Of course you would have to read logged in, but I believe most if not all readers do this anyway.

    A system of this type shouldn't be terribly hard to implement, considering Slashdot already organizes stories by category, and it should not be too taxing on Slashdot's servers. I know I would be more likely to click on, and lessly annoyed by banner ads, if they were advertising products I had a particular interest in.

    Just a suggestion, does anyone else have any input on the subject?

  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:14AM (#396095) Homepage
    The introduction of karma in Slashdot was an interesting psychological experiment - look how nuts people can go over something that has absolutely no value. I mean, I know I can't do anything with it but I've still effectively retired my low-four-digit-id account in large part because I've been conditioned to value karma and it bothers me at some level to see it get whittled away.

    Anyway, the lesson is that you can't "just" introduce some scoring system without people getting crazy over it. If you decide to go with such a plan, get ready for ad karma whoring, trolling, bot and script hogging and all the rest of the headaches that are going to accompany it.

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by airlie ( 234849 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @07:02AM (#396096) Homepage
    How about giving me a compelling reason to look at banner ad's?

    Maybe every 50th ad check my email account and use the banner ad space to tell me if I have new mail.

    Occasionally stick the latest Slashdot topic or CNN News story in the banner ad space. Not as an ad for Slashdot or CNN but because I specifically requested periodic updates from those sites.

    Soon I'll get in the habit of actually checking the ad banner for items of interest instead of ignoring it so throughly that I'm not even aware there is one.
  • by Eoli ( 320216 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:17AM (#396097)
    - Filter them out, or

    - Enforce the "1 x 1 pixel" banner standard, or

    - Pay me $1 for each banner viewed, or

    - Fill them with pornographic images

    I think those are the only real options here.
  • by Hemos ( 2 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:00AM (#396098) Homepage Journal
    I think that the user-based ad system is one of the most interesting ideas I've heard in a long time. It completly changes the dynamic of the advertising relationship.


    Because web advertising has been basically like TV or print - an ad is displayed and people can click or not. TV doesn't even have that option, but print can send back requests for more info. What can we do here? Click on an ad - that's been the only method of communication.

    Me, I like to see *some* ads. I've found good companies and stuff I didn't know about through some of the ads. But I'd much prefer being able to do more then click or not - being able to request more info, or being able to to *turn off* a bad ad would rock. It's a system that I think would be worth implementing - not because I work on the web sites, but because it's something I'd like to have as user.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @07:27AM (#396099) Homepage Journal

    But the size of the audience on OSDN's web sites and the nature of the content within is such that the subscription models break down.

    Maybe if you rely exclusively on subscription, it doesn't work. I suspect that relying on ads won't work either. But you're thinking to narrow -- why not have the best of both worlds?

    Slashdot uses a login system, so that people can set their preferences. It already serves dynamic pages, based on who is reading it, anyway. It would be trivial to modify it so that it serves an ad-free page to people who paid a subscription, and an ad-cluttered page to everyone else.

    People who hate ads but are willing to pay, win. People who hate paying, but don't mind (or would rather filter) ads, win. Slashdot gets revenue, and wins. Everybody wins.

  • by Shoeboy ( 16224 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:26AM (#396100) Homepage
    Here's a few scenerios, ideas I've been pitching around:

    Comment forums for each ad banner:

    Great idea! The best part is that you've already tested it here on slashdot. Nearly ever article posted during the "Slashdot Cruiser" campaign contained at least 3 comments about what a horrible idea that was. Clearly you can leverage your existing expertise in this area.

    Turning off annoying ads:

    I've got a better idea, how about we see hot horny women and get fired? I think this could be a great experience for us to share together.

    Choice of ad topics and categories:

    Will hardware manufacturers that don't suck be an option? Cause while I'll probably never pay 10% more than the standard price for a "server" that has an asus desktop motherboard and a VA Linux case badge, I do like computer hardware ads. I just like them from real companies like Dell and Compaq that don't charge extra for printing "Linux Powered" on the outside of the box the computer ships in.

    What about ad system karma?

    Would that work like the slashdot karma system? Cause the idea of ad system bitchslapping is scary. I can handle a default posting score of -1, but I'd hate to have 20 popups on slashdot just because Taco got pissed at me.

    1 point for every time you load a paid ad
    0 points for clicking on an ad
    50 points for loading bigger ads
    100 points for loading a pop-up ad
    500 points for filling out an advertiser's survey
    100 points for loading a Flash ad
    300 points for posting a meaningful critique on an ad
    200 points for alerting us if an ad is broken
    500 points for helping us test an ad before it goes live

    The look on Larry Augustin's face when OSDN starts turning a profit: priceless.
    There are some things that ad karma can't buy. For everything else there's mastercard.

    I understand that you're brainstorming here, but your ideas are pretty silly.

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:14AM (#396101) Journal
    Who's this 'hemos' guy and how'd he get uid 2? After all, we never see the slashdot crew posting to their own site, so he can't be one of them.

    Desperately trying to dump karma so he won't be called a karma whore

  • by peccary ( 161168 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:11AM (#396102)
    When web sites first started putting up gif advertisements, the WSJ Interactive had tasteful black-and-white 1-inch ads very much like the print version.

    Then they went to color. "Ok, just taking advantage of the medium," I thought. Some of them were informative, and I occasionally clicked through.

    Then they started flashing at me, trying to get my attention. Hello! I'm Trying To Read, Here! It was worse than being in a room full of toddlers. I was quite disappointed that a
    • newspaper publisher
    of all possible outfits, was destroying the reading experience in this way. And I told them so. Naturally, they ignored me.

    And so I installed an ad filter and now I don't see a single one of their blessed ads, or any one elses.

    The web ad industry is its own worst enemy.
  • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:22AM (#396103) Homepage Journal
    Yes to be able to turn off that "Hot Horny women" ad would be a *very* good thing. OTOH I really like the Despair ads. :)
  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @08:16AM (#396104)
    From the article: So if an ad bothers you, offends you, confuses you, entices you, anything about that ad, you can speak and be heard. Let's face it, many ad banners suck because nobody tells the ad agency that the creative needs improvement.

    Sorry, but I don't think you can afford my consulting fee.

    The ad agency will have to figure it out themselves. That's what they get paid for.

  • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:08AM (#396105)
    Redeem your points to gain access to such features as (Hypothetical examples)
    • Turn off all ads
    • Upload your own ads
    • Get stats on the ads you uploaded
    • Specify which sites you want your ads to run on
    • Whetever else anyone can think of...

    Sorry, but I've gotta say the "ad karma" idea is exceptionally bad. The only way I'm going to spend my time rating your banner ads is if you:

    • Pay me money
    • Pay me money
    • Pay me money
  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:22AM (#396106) Homepage
    How about a karma system for the advertisers!

    People "moderate" their ads. They accumulate good karma for being good citizens.

    Web site visitors can set their viewing threshold. Don't show me ads from advertisers unless their karma is over 20. Or maybe the ad score is over 3, etc.

    Just imagine a moderation system for ads...
    (Score -2, Obnoxious)
    (Score -5, Company is a scumbag)
    (Score -3, Tries to pretend the ad is interactive)

    Those who can, do. Those who can't, get their MCSE.
  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @06:33AM (#396107) Homepage
    Kurt, I like the ideas in your article.

    This would be a huge improvement over the way web advertising works now. It could even lead the way for others to follow.

    I would dearly love the ability to click "Never show me this ad again". I would dearly love to be able to send feedback directly to the advertiser, especially if I knew it didn't go to /dev/null. And especially on an ad I felt strongly about. (And maybe the advertiser could accumulate clue-karma for sending me a personal reply to the message I personally wrote them.)

    I can imagine myself commenting negatively on ads more than positively. But that might change as advertisers accumulate more clue-karma. I can mostly imagine commenting negatively on ads that look interactive, but aren't. Obnoxious blinking ads, etc.

    Just because advertisers don't have something to sell that I want, isn't my fault. Really. It isn't.

    But some advertisers seem to think that they can persuade me to buy if they can just be more obnoxious and in-my-face than the other guy. I have news for them.

    When advertisers have something I'm actually intersted in, then I'm interested (sometimes) in their ads. And (gasp!) I sometimes click through!

    I have a few more ideas to suggest:

    How about a page I can go to that is just full of ads! I can then immediately pick out the obnoxious ones and immediately click "Never show me again". This should give the advertiser some feedback.

    When I click never show me this again, maybe I could optionally enter some feedback as to why! I find this ad offensive. I'm not interested. I think the techniques used in the ad demonstrates that your company is scum, etc.

    Maybe I could rate ads, with a simple drop down menu? The higher I rate an ad, the more frequently I see it. This is simply a more fine grained version of "Never show me this ad again".

    I might be willing to let advertisers (who haven't yet offended me) contact me. The problem with the way this works now, is that advertisers get your contact info. They then violate the trust you put in them, and you can't retract your contact info. What if the contact info could go to a trusted intermediary? I'm willing to let Acme Co. contact me, as long as they don't offend me. When they do, I tell the intermediary to remove me from their mailing list. This works great until the intermediary violates my trust.

    That's maybe the core of the problem. Advertisers have violated people's trust so much, so many times, and in so many ways, that nobody trusts them anymore. Maybe they could earn that trust back, and people might not think so lowly of them.

    Maybe I could go to a special page on your site, and indicate, "I'm in the market for a hard drive.". Then over the next week, I would get ads from advertisers who think they might have something of interest to sell me.

    Those who can, do. Those who can't, get their MCSE.
  • by Steve Richards ( 211082 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:17AM (#396108)
    I find this entire article vaguely amusing. Sure, you can ask your users what they want. Just don't expect it to get you anywhere.

    Remember, you run this site. You can do whatever you want with it. There is absolutely no need to ask the users' permission to do anything. The servers are your property, the code was written by you, and everyone is reading this website and posting here at your sufferance.

    You can't depend on the readers to run this site for you. What do us readers want? A site that's never down, with all sorts of features, that's easy to use, with responsive management, and no banners. Is that realistic? No. Are users interested in sitting down and facing harsh, ugly reality and thinking hard about these issues to the degree that's necessary to formulate even halfway decent proposals? Of course not. And it's unrealistic and dangerous to expect essentially apathetic (and very self-interested) parties to give you good advice.

    In the end, the success or failure of the banner system is up to you. You can't rely on the users, and you can't blame them if you fail. But there's a ray of hope here too - you also have the freedom to ignore them.

    I hope this is in some way helpful to you.
  • by LinkDog ( 249517 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:56AM (#396109)
    When I read print articles I notice ads and return to them later. The problem with web ads is that I must act now or lose my chance. What I would like is a hybrid dynamic/static ad system. The ad itself can be random, but once I've seen it, it should remain each time I return to a specific page. Thus I can remember I saw the ad for FooCorp Widgets on the Slashdot article about Ginger and track it down days, weeks, or months later.
  • by tonywestonuk ( 261622 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2001 @05:47AM (#396110)
    I saw a banner ad that was quite interesting - I think it was for HP, but that wasn't important. The ad itself was a paper plane simulator, with two controls to increase/decrease the length of the plane, and its wingspan. When you were happy with your 'design', you pressed 'go' and the paper plane was thrown, its tragectory plotted with a dotted red line... Altering the controls changed the way the plane flew logically. Unfortunetly, when I left the page, and came back, the ad had changed, and no amount of reloading the page would bring it back.... I think I did go to HP's web site to try and find it again.... but without luck. The morral - instead of trying to sell us somthing with a electronic 'poster' -give us somthing to play with. The computer medium is by its nature interactive - if the ad's arn't then we skip over them though pure bordom.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"