Judging by the stories on this subject that have emerged during the last
month, selling advertising on the Internet will be the biggest money
spinner of the 21st century.
Even Rupert Murdoch pinned his colours to the mast a couple of weeks
ago by taking BSkyB into a joint venture with OzEmail, an Australian
Internet service company, for what a Sky statement described as ‘an
international advertising service on the Net’.
Add to this the fact that Channel 4 has called in the ABC to audit its
Website for advertisers; BT has announced a ‘guaranteed hits or your
money back’ package for advertisers on its Yellow Pages site; Carling is
thinking of taking advertisers on its football site; and the UK’s first
new-media sales house is set to launch - and you have a mighty tide of
opinion which says advertising on the Internet will be big business. One
survey predicts that Internet advertising will top pounds 3 billion by
Really? To my mind, the best commercial tie-ups involve single
advertiser deals such as Vauxhall’s link with the Guardian’s Eurosoccer
site during Euro 96.
It’s probably fair to say that kind of project would not have gone ahead
without the backing of the advertiser. So these are advertiser-funded
sites, rather than sites that take advertising. In effect, we’re talking
about investment in production, rather than the purchase of media space.
You can’t talk ratecards and costs per thousand with deals like these.
The combination of fully funded sites and partly funded ones such as
these is set to dominate commercial activity on the Web - but sites like
this are precluded from selling their space to other advertisers.
So where will ad sales and ad auditing come into the equation? There
will be a few independent sites, news providers and search engines, that
attract enough traffic to give advertising value. But even these sites
can’t expect advertising to be their main source of revenue. Nor can TV
channels competing in the channel-crazy, audience-fragmented world of
By design and force of circumstance, advertising is becoming less
important to media owners everywhere. Why should the Internet be any