I was the editor in chief at Dr. Dobb's, which many of you know closed down in December. As I explained in my farewell editorial , our ad sales were squeezed by a comparatively recent phenomenon in media, which is a very steep drop in vendors' willingness to buy Web ads--a lifeline for most web sites.
The reason is that vendors have (finally!) discovered that effectively nobody ever buys anything by clicking on a web ad.
For certain consumer sites, that's a survivable problem. For example, Budweiser's ads aren't intended to make a sale, but rather to remind people of the brand. However, for many tech companies (those that aren't tier 1), they don't have the funds to do brand-oriented ads. Their ads need to result in clicks and purchases. And that's just not happening on pure websites. (FB and Twitter are a wholly different category.)
Personally, I expect that more web sites in the tech sector that have depended in the past on advertising will either fail or drastically cut back on their offerings.
Average CPM for business & finance: $6.15
Average CPM for technology: $4.56
Average CPM for style and beauty: $1.48
So at $4.56 per thousand views, assuming one ad per page, even if an article does 20K views, that's only $91. This is why news organizations look for differentiators; it's what we did when I was at Wired and CNET, though I was on the editorial side, not advertising. Unfortunately not all news organizations succeed; Gigaom did events and had a paid research arm, but that wasn't enough. I'm also still mourning Dr. Dobb's, which I first read as a teenager. :(
In contrast one can claim banner (outdoor, indoor or web) never really worked except for some carefully chosen "success stories", and now advertisers can measure.
Relevance advantage means that a site is so big and important in a broad category that it's worth it for advertisers to pay a premium to get frequent views from its readers( think of how TechCrunch is so central to the tech community)
That's confusing to me, because the grandparent said:
> One single programmer can run a web site with tenfold their capacity
How could one programmer run a website with more manpower than Gigaom or DDJ?
Considering that prior to the web, the most trackable advertising was direct mail.
There have been a lot of very successful and profitable media companies. The industry isn't broken (far from it), just some of the models are.
This also isn't a new revelation: Arrington wrote a post on TechCrunch in 2008 warning other bloggers not to raise money
Re: the effectiveness of advertising. This is a $120B+ annual industry with entire billion-dollar sub-industries involved in measuring its effectiveness and optimizing value. If it didn't work it would have slowed, shrunk and or shut down a long time ago - but rather it is growing insanely each year. Advertisers and the over-qualified engineers working in adtech are not idiots.
 TechCrunch (disclaimer: worked there, profitable - sold), ReadWriteWeb (profitable - sold), Huffington Post (profitable, sold for $350M+), ProBlogger (profitable), etc. etc. etc.
In terms of companies sold, there's also CNET, which was sold for $1.8B to CBS in 2008. That was after an operating loss of $6M in 1Q 2008.
There have been a few times I've seen an ad on a website that looked like it was for something I wanted, and wanted to click it.
The problem is that I pretty much ignore the ads while I'm reading the page content, and so I only noticed these ads when I'd finished the content and clicked a link to leave the page, and my eyes are wandering while I wait for the new page to start loading. I click back to try to get back to the ad, and something else has taken over its spot. I might refresh a few times to try to get the desired ad back, but that has never worked for me.
Absolutely. IMO, Banner Blindness alone is the biggest reason why web publishers are facing difficulty in monetising web inventory.
Many a times, people don't notice ads even if they were relevant to them, just because of banner blindness. In fact, 3 out of 10 display ads are never seen 
 http://www.adpushup.com/blog/banner-blindness/ (Disclosure: I wrote this)
Back before the internet was huge I used to subscribe to 3-5 computer magazines. PC Magazine, Wired, ... I don't even remember the other ones, probably mostly video game mags.
I used to look forward to the ads just as much as the articles because it was a way to find out about new products. Now though I need no such ads. I see the announcement on the various tech sites or from friends that read the tech sites. Almost zero need or interest in ads anymore and pretty much do my best to ignore them.
Edit: CPM pays 1/3rd the rate, but CPC ads make up 90% of revenue, which makes sense if they generally pay more. I run a rather diverse set of sites, but I stay away from tech.
It may still be effective for pure consumer-oriented services, but is IMO useless nowadays for B2B unless you're a large, deep-pocketed company.
The frustrating thing is that if you do find keywords that have low prices, google will refuse to run them for you because too few people search for it. Citing "low quality", google will force you to artificially inflate your CPC just for the privilege of running a niche keyword.
There is this idea that every day there are X people on the web searching for exactly what you offer, and if you show them an ad during the search: success. I believe this to be true, but google makes it all but impossible to pursue low traffic, niche searches. They literally refuse to run them.
Lots of fond memories of the print edition, that's where I learned a whole bag full of useful tricks when information was a lot harder to come by than today.
In .de, SZ, Zeit and Spiegel appear to do tolerably. (I subscribe to the first of the three.) Two of them charge real money, though, and perhaps the third too, I wouldn't know.
The Germans have a proverb for this. Wer zahlt, schafft an. Liberally translated: Who pays, decides what's paid for.
The debased version being, "Who has the gold, makes the rules." (http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/01/11/has-gold/)
Sometimes in gloomier moments, I am reminded of the gap between the two.
Also, most successful smaller media publishers who are not purely ad-based have diversified into other areas.TidBITS is a smaller operation and can pay some salaries, but they supplement with their fantastic book business too. They diversify and have built what they can sustain
I've actually drifted off it in the past few years largely as I'm simply not tracking Linux-related stuff all that closely any more. Though for that, LWN is absolutely excellent. It's certainly seen numerous other contenders buried.
This hugely devalues quality publishers and increases the value of lower-investment publishers who successfully create a lot of pageviews. The latter inventory used to sell for bottom-of-the-barrel prices, but advertisers have decided it's pretty similar in value to reaching the same user on a high-quality site.
The best offensive weapon quality websites have against this trend is native advertising: create high-quality sponsorship offerings that commodity display ad impressions can't directly compete with.
Any relative or absolute numbers you'd like to share?
> The reason is that vendors have (finally!) discovered that effectively nobody ever buys anything by clicking on a web ad.
My favourite experience with this was when I was selling a computer case and researched its specs on newegg.com. Then for a while all I saw were retargeted ads from newegg trying to sell me that case. Nonono, I didn't have one too few computer cases, I had one too many. I was the complete opposite of their target audience, heh.
But it's always amused me (in a not very amusing way) that immediately after I purchase something I'm inundated with advertisements from the same vendor trying to sell it to me again. Big data is supposed to be about finding statistical relationships between events, right? In what world would the probability of someone buying something be highest when they're holding a brand new one in their hands?
What it really makes me think is the web advertising folks are pulling a con on their clients. They're not actually doing the critical analysis they promise but simply sorting by linear distance in n-dimensional space and hoping no one notices how useless the measurement is.
A few years later my brother interviewed with them and they asked him how to solve that problem. I wonder if they were stumped, and if they were just looking for new ideas.
I agree. I think it would be very difficult for them to tell the two states apart, but I found it amusing.
Yeah, I've had similar experiences. Back when I used to play Eve Online, I'd see banner ads everywhere for the game. Big screaming banner ads imploring me to subscribe now.
At the time I already had two accounts. By definition I was the kind of person who could not be advertised to, but the ad network was still putting effort into targeting me with those ads.
Oddly I almost never see WoW ads (excluding telly), but I do get the occasional email with free time/trials. Ofc they're all scams now, but once upon a time it really was a free upgrade...
Put another way, I don't know who your banks competitors are, and you might not, but your bank thinks its competitors spam campaigns currently revolve around greenwashing and aspirational, so thats the kind of retention spam they send.
So far, this has protected Google from decline. Eventually Google will become a blue-chip stock because they can consistently match advertisements to users better than anyone else can.
Never. Publishers aren't dropping off in sum, just the bad ones are cycling out and are being replaced with more nimble, relevant, cheaper, etc. content providers (ie. Grandparents thesis is not correct and is anecdotal)
There are is more and better inventory than ever and more audience than ever and both are growing at staggering rates.
Your analysis is just plain wrong, by the way. Dr. Dobb's was punished for delivering content. Turns out, advertising doesn't work as advertisers hope on people who actually enjoy content. When you deliver actual content at some point in your career, you will discover this to be true as well.
There isn't a single cite in this entire thread to back that claim up outside of the anecdotal examples. The numbers for online ad sales and media revenue are all growing. The fact that the numbers haven't propagated through to Google's results is further proof of that.
Edit: some stats. The IAB report for last quarter shows 6% quarterly growth:
Google ARPU for USA increased 7% last year:
Facebook ARPU is increasing 80% :
Mobile ad growth up 83%:
So where is this reported decline? It doesn't show up in numbers anywhere. There are profitable and well-run media businesses with both low and premium content in all sectors. I understand the tendency to want to blame this on some meta trend, but it just isn't there and can't be backed up outside of stories and feelings.
"Network paid clicks, which include clicks related to ads served on non-Google properties participating in our AdSense for Search, AdSense for Content, and AdMob businesses, decreased approximately 11% over the fourth quarter of 2013 and decreased approximately 7% over the third quarter of 2014"
"Average cost-per-click, which includes clicks related to ads served on Google sites and the sites of our Network members, decreased approximately 3% over the fourth quarter of 2013 and decreased approximately 3% over the third quarter of 2014."
"Google's Ad-Price Declines Continue for 12th Straight Quarter"
> There isn't a single cite in this entire thread to back that claim up outside of the anecdotal examples.
ChuckMcM cited Google's earnings report in a top-level comment nine hours before you claimed there isn't a single cite.
AdSense struggles to distinguish between DrDobbs and a 12 year old writing about learning programming on Blogger. It performs when you have purchasing intent based sectors like gadgets, photogaphy, etc. (and a lot of blogs have built around that)
There is also a confusion here where CPM is used to refer to total CPC revenue divided by total pageviews. CPM is a specific display model where advertisers purchase Units of traffic volume and it scales out.
In any case neither DrDobbs nor GigaOM ran CPC ads in any significant volume (likely would only fill unsold display as backfill).
It is telling that somebody from DrDobbs - a display ad business would cite AdSense CPC performance or ad market performance as a reasoning for their failure. To me it just speaks to not understanding what went wrong.
Nobody should expect to take a premium magazine like DrDobbs, split it into online articles and then slap AdSense onto it and then sit back and count the money. That is totally unrealistic. It also doesn't work with just CPM markets either.
Premium brands require humans to sell them and not algorithms. If you don't have the scale to hire a sales team then you need to join a network.
Wasn't it simply due for a shakeout regardless?
Exactly. How many articles have been written in the past day on the new MacBook that are actually just worse than reading the Apple.com page itself. Filtering can be done by link-sharing sites like HN and Reddit.
If the goal wasn't a self-sufficient web business, this seems to imply (maybe?) that the "research/analyst bits were also unsuccessful.
Which I can also believe, because Tolkein's "Go not to the Elves for counsel" was somewhat written about analysts - "for they shall say both no and yes".
What was different then was that vendors viewed Web ads as an expensive form of advertising, but one which they had to do.
Instead, we opted to take the road less traveled — subscription revenues. 
Which still did not bring in enough revenue.
The recent Marissa Mayer piece in Medium  made much of the fact that her big accomplishment so far was transitioning from the old dying Banner ads model to a mobile/video/social/fake content friendly model.
Also consider this bit from buzzfeed  which I first saw from stratechery's great article  on them.
The banner ad, whose decline Farhad Manjoo recently celebrated, was also born during this era and created a business model in which clicks are tied directly to dollars — something many people assume is still how all online publishers make their money. But BuzzFeed has never sold a banner, and I couldn't even tell you how many monthly page views we get. And so our business model at least moderates that incentive to drag every last click out of our audience.
But awareness advertising doesn't pay as well (yet?). The real money is getting people at the edge of making a purchase to make that purchase, whatever it may be. And the ability for the web (or any advertising, for that matter), is increasingly being called into question (or people are getting better at questioning such purchases).
I know I never did - at least for banner ads and other CPM advertising, but I'm not so sure it applies to the CPA sector. My impression (no pun intended!) is that sector is in a growth phase.
On the plus side, if this means the return of advertising revenue to print media, that's an interesting development. If it doesn't, then ... where is the advertising spend going to go? Mobile? I think mobile advertising is even more universally reviled than CPM web advertising! Should the penny be dropping (pun intended) there, as well?
Oddly enough, the reason these folks are failing is that Google's CPC (the money they get for an advertising "click") has gone down Year over Year for the last 13 quarters. What that means is that if your web site depended on advertising from Google (and most do), and your traffic remained constant, you have seen a 33% drop in gross revenue over that same period. Google doesn't call out their click fraud numbers, but they do improve their ability to detect it over time, which means your "quality" click through rate has been going down as well, for a double whammy. So unless you can improve volume, you die. In their Q4 report they make this note:
Network paid clicks, which include clicks related to ads served on non-Google properties participating in our AdSense for Search, AdSense for Content, and AdMob businesses, decreased approximately 11% over the fourth quarter of 2013 and decreased approximately 7% over the third quarter of 2014.
A third less advertising revenue on a 11% fewer clicks over all? Serious pain.
As of the fourth quarter, Google also mentions it is paying nearly a billion dollars a quarter ($968M) to get search traffic. If you're a GigaOm and your traffic is already generating less revenue and fewer clicks are getting through, you can't really add insult to injury by paying people to send you traffic.
All it means is a 33% drop per click, not per thousand visitors, or gross revenue over a same period.
As Google gets better at matching ads to users, CPC would be expected to go down, since there would be more clicks, and each click would therefore be less valuable, but there would be more clicks overall.
As a micro-publisher, the first question that friends ask to satisfy their curiosity is "How much do you get paid per click", and I have to answer that total revenue is all that really matters, not revenue per click.
Shouldn't improving fraud detection increase click quality?
> All it means is a 33% drop per click, not per
> thousand visitors, or gross revenue over a same period.
In a purely statistical way, for any given web page getting 'n' views, and to keep our units consistent we will define pageviews/1000 as its traffic or T. Some fraction of those views will include an ad click. This is the 'Click through rate', and it can be calculated per thousand page view to get a 'CPM' or clicks per thousand. If you are an AdSense advertiser, Google will tell you what the CTR is for each page on your website that has AdSense ads on it. Each click gets some amount of money, this is the 'cost per click' or CPC. The product of those three, is Revenue per thousand or RPM, so
RPM = T * CTR * CPC
If Google got better at matching ads to users, then your click through rate (CTR) would go up because the ads would be more appropriate to what the viewer was looking for or interested in. It would not affect the cost per click which is what the advertiser is paying Google, you would just get more clicks per thousand.
Web site publishers really only have two things to try to optimize, click through rate and total traffic.
If you have heard the term 'click bait' it specifically refers to ways that a web site tries to increase its click through rate by making it more likely you will click on a link (or advertisement). This is the number a web site has under its control. It can also buy AdWords to put its content at the top of search results, or pay a company like OutBrain to put a link to its content at the bottom of an article, both of these are called buying traffic because you are paying someone (Google or the site running Outbrain 'ads') if someone clicks on that link and comes to your web site. If the amount of traffic increase * CTR * CPM (your marginal revenue gain) is greater than the amount you spent to get the traffic, then it is a good deal for you. However, for more and more people that number is negative, they just lose money faster because their ad revenue is going down and the amount they keep is further reduced by the cost of the traffic they bought.
And to your final question, yes fraud detection does improve click quality but that hasn't been reflected in advertisers willing to pay more to advertise as Google's sinking CPC number shows.
I really doubt any browser will start installing it by default, so I think adblock will be limited to:
a) Really technical people (HNers)
b) Friends of HNers that are bothered enough by the real web experience while on their friend's systems that they go ahead and install adblockers.
I don't see adblockers covering more than 10% of web users, and they're likely the least valuable 10% of web users (they may earn a lot, but they don't have burning holes in their pockets either).
The growth isn't driven by technical people any more; it's normal people who've grown up using web browsers and who don't think twice about installing an extension on Chrome. You're correct through that it is spreading through word of mouth. You can get more on the pagefair blog.
My point is that adblock usage doesn't seem to be nearly as prevalent as we assume - at work (where everybody has admin rights on their work machines) maybe 10% of the non technical users have it. The point that makes people install it seems to be youtube ads.
1) You write articles that are exclusively marketed toward an HN crowd (adblock-heavy).
2) Some advertiser(s) were heavily directly targeting users at your site and stopped
3) Your traffic stayed the same, but because of changing search results, so you got more low-value traffic while losing high-value traffic
I'm down 75% as well, but it's largely due to my abandoning my pages and competitors making specialized sites on my niches.
And it seems that youtube users use Patreon now.
Most adblockers are not on the computers of the HN-type, but rather installed by HN-type people on their friends computers. (ie: I've probably installed them on 5-10 systems). However, I probably wouldn't bother installing it on friend's phones/tablets, since I use mine, not their's.
On the negative side, mobile ads should pay less, since I'm less likely to whip out my credit card and buy something big/profitable on it. At least that is me anyway.
Current e-commerce experience on the mobile is "fiddle with your phone while trying to type up your account information, shipping address and billing data", so conversion rates are understandable abysmal, leaving mobile ad space to people promoting app installs.
Advertising is good at selling some products, but advertisers are spectacular at selling advertising. So we've had almost a century-long bubble in bullshit.
The best way you outsell other advertisers, masters of bullshit themselves, all spinning how effective their ad is, is by selling metrics alongside your advertising. Metrics are the anti-bullshit. Well, almost...
You want something that looks like "actual sales caused." You want to tell a guy, "pay me $10 per ad, and I will generate 10 sales, each giving you $2 profit you wouldn't have otherwise made. We'll split the winnings."
You want to claim metrics for sales caused, but you don't really want those exact numbers, you kind of want something that looks hard that you can spin. Something loosely correlated with "actual sales caused" where your art of bullshitting can get slightly better returns than the exact numbers would get. Play to your strengths, right?
So magazines come along with subscription numbers, and that's great sauce. Then television comes along with the Nielsen family and, ok, actually Nielsen starts way back with radio in the 1920s, but same idea. Radio/television advertising reaches the most people and every company starts to pay a premium.
Advertisers have the whole industry sliced, diced, catalogued and formulated. Superbowl is the premium end, free weeklies are the bottom of the barrel. Everybody has a place, but everyone's using the same game to guess at eyeballs, to guess at actual sales caused.
Suddenly, though, there's this new game on the internet. Not a lot of eyeballs at first, so it starts in free weekly category. Suddenly though, Google (and maybe some other companies) can tell you how many ads are actually getting action rather than just eyeballs.
It's a metric like we've never seen before, it's the killer metric. Sure, you could get this from surveys, or test markets, but this is like measuring everyone who sees the ad. It's pretty cool.
But remember, metrics this accurate are dangerous, it shows when advertising doesn't work too.
And a lot of advertising is spin, a lot of it isn't all that great, because advertisers are better at selling ads than they are at selling your product.
I hope someone tells me this is all nonsense, though, because if it's true, then Internet advertising is both absorbing the advertising industry then destroying it.
That'd be sad. I mean, sure, it's showing us which of our emperors are already naked. But it might mean the constant death of random content sites like this.
This should be inscribed in 50-foot tall letters of fire hanging in the air above Silicon Valley.
Advertising wasn't (and isn't) valueless, but the benefits were overextolled.
There is something else at work here though. It could be that people were overpaying for advertising, but it doesn't cost a lot more for a print ad than it would cost to have the ad printed and mailed to the same number of people who subscribe to the newspaper. The newspaper makes money because they put your ad in the newspaper they were already going to print and deliver and then they get to stick your ad money in their pocket. It's a nice deal for them.
But the internet equivalent of direct mail is spam. Or mailing lists to be more charitable. In ether case there is no printing and delivery cost. And the advertiser will now also have their own website which anyone can go to and view their products at trivial expense to the advertiser.
So sellers of advertising are no longer providing printing and delivery services or access to finite broadcast airtime. The equivalents of those things are no longer scarce or expensive.
The only thing they're selling is the ability to put your ad in front of customers who otherwise might not see it. Which might still be valuable if they had some kind of exclusivity in providing that, but they don't. Eyeballs aren't scarce either. Everybody visits many websites every day. The advertiser can get their ad in front of the customer by putting it on any subset of those websites, which then have to compete with each other for the advertiser's money.
So the price of advertising goes down. Somewhat fortunately for the likes of Google, then the Jevons paradox kicks in and people realize that if advertising becomes cheaper then it's profitable to buy more of it. So companies aren't spending less money on advertising.
But there are still many times more people selling it. And if companies spend twice as much on advertising but there are twenty times as many websites offering ad space, at the end of the day they each end up with ~10% of what they used to.
The second issue is alot of internet advertising is bullshit, including the metrics. Now, some things are good--actual-purchase links are decent data, but again that's really lead-gen not advertising.
If your lead already wants to buy your product, its too late for advertsing and you're really more into a different game. Nobody looks at an ad in the superbowl and the runs out and buy something 12 minutes later. The fact your narrative doesn't apply to that case is more a sign that something is missing in it, not that superbowl ads are mis-priced per se.
Ideally, you want to pay the ad platform for sending you a user who will buy your product. So you say something like:
"I'll pay you X for every user you send me who buys something".
Except now the ad can simply optimize for users who were GOING to buy your product anyway. So now you've spent money getting users who would have been there anyway.
What you really want is to pay for users "Who buy my product, but would NOT have bought it without the presence of the ad". And that's a much harder thing to measure.
Brand advertising is built around the concept of "When a person is making a buying decision, I want them to buy my product."
We know it works, because when you stop doing brand advertising for things like Toilet Paper, Detergent, Toothpaste, Deoderant, etc... sales go down. And when you start the advertising again, sales go up.
Price, Value, Placement, and, obviously, competition are all conflating factors as well - but the underlying response to advertising has been pretty consistent.
I suspect that metric is nowhere as accurate as most people believe it to be. But I agree with the spirit of this message: a lot of the BS is getting exposed.
> In 2008, our company decided that we would not pray at the altar of pageviews and advertising metrics that do nothing but devalue our readers’ time and attention. Instead, we opted to take the road less traveled — subscription revenues.
The post described their pivot into another line of business. (I'm not sure how much Gigaom relied on subscription revenue vs. advertising.)
I'm in the category where I don't need ads, I need timely and well categorized (machine sortable; accurate) results for product requests that I have when I discern a need.
I don't fell bad at all about running an adblocker because I would never have clicked on the ad to begin with (it also saves bandwidth and eyebleach); unobtrusive well placed and related text ads /might/ remind me of a need I had been meaning to fill.
There is some confusion as to what magic actually is. I think this can be cleared up if you just look at the very earliest descriptions of magic. Magic in its earliest form is often referred to as “the art”. I believe this is completely literal. I believe that magic is art and that art, whether it be writing, music, sculpture, or any other form is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words, or images, to achieve changes in consciousness. The very language about magic seems to be talking as much about writing or art as it is about supernatural events. A grimmoir for example, the book of spells is simply a fancy way of saying grammar. Indeed, to cast a spell, is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people's consciousness. And I believe that this is why an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a Shaman.
I believe that all culture must have arisen from cult. Originally, all of the faucets of our culture, whether they be in the arts or sciences were the province of the Shaman. The fact that in present times, this magical power has degenerated to the level of cheap entertainment and manipulation, is, I think a tragedy. At the moment the people who are using Shamanism and magic to shape our culture are advertisers. Rather than try to wake people up, their Shamanism is used as an opiate to tranquilize people, to make people more manipulable. Their magic box of television, and by their magic words, their jingles can cause everyone in the country to be thinking the same words and have the same banal thoughts all at exactly the same moment.
In all of magic there is an incredibly large linguistic component. The Bardic tradition of magic would place a bard as being much higher and more fearsome than a magician. A magician might curse you. That might make your hands lay funny or you might have a child born with a club foot. If a Bard were to place not a curse upon you, but a satire, then that could destroy you. If it was a clever satire, it might not just destroy you in the eyes of your associates; it would destroy you in the eyes of your family. It would destroy you in your own eyes. And if it was a finely worded and clever satire that might survive and be remembered for decades, even centuries. Then years after you were dead people still might be reading it and laughing at you and your wretchedness and your absurdity. Writers and people who had command of words were respected and feared as people who manipulated magic. In latter times I think that artists and writers have allowed themselves to be sold down the river. They have accepted the prevailing belief that art and writing are merely forms of entertainment. They’re not seen as transformative forces that can change a human being; that can change a society. They are seen as simple entertainment; things with which we can fill 20 minutes, half an hour, while we’re waiting to die. It’s not the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience wants. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience. They would be the artists. It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need.
To be clear: as-based sites can absolutely survive, but you need a sales team and good as-ops. The best CPMs are going to come from sales people getting deals done, not algorithms and text ads.
That market died in 2008.
The Internet is overflowing with ad-based sites, and will continue to be. Some will die, the radical majority will not. Five years from now there will be more ad supported sites than there are today.
The alternative to Google is to run your own advertising. This is especially true for sites with the scale of Gigaom.
Google is simply too good at matching viewers to advertising that is valuable to them (and therefore the publisher).
Running your own advertising is hard to be successful with, unless you can convince your advertiser to really overpay.
This is so wrong, I don't even know where to start. Google is very good at managing ad inventory and putting ads from said inventory in front of people. What they aren't good at (or even care about being good at) is getting the right inventory mix for the right site. That requires focused sales teams.
I'm not going to go down the native advertising rabbit hole because I don't have time ro have the conversation it needs to have, but I will say that whatever you think it is, it's both better and worse than that. And everyone who is successful in publishing does it to some extent, maybe just by a different name. And it's not new. It's been happening since the beginning of mass media. I can understand not liking advertorials or content that is unclear, but there are not plenty of people making native advertising that doesn't interfere with editorial missions.
>Running your own advertising is hard to be successful with, unless you can convince your advertiser to really overpay.
Again, this is not true. For a small publisher, running your ads is probably not worth the tech or sales investment. If you're the scale of a GigaOm, you need to take control of your ad game yourself. You can supplement sith ad networks, but the real money comes from doing it yourself. And with good ad ops, you can also provide a way better experience for the ad buyer.
Again, we're not talking about small one person publishers. We're talking t about sites that do millions of uniques and have full staff. If you're doing that and not maintaininf tour own sales staff, you're leaving money on the table, incompetent, or you have a product no one wants. Or all three.
Uniques and pageviews were way up, click-through rate was near constant, but CPC got clobbered. It's incredibly frustrating and I can only imagine we'll see a great thinning of the herd across verticals very soon.
They are dependent on Google DoubleClick, but not on Google's CPC product.
I'd be surprised if AdWords/CPC made up 5% of GigaOm revenue (it would look more like: 50% conference business, 45% display ads, 5% other ads).
CPC is used as backfill on display - right now GigaOM have campaigns from Verizon, Tile and Asana running.
Really sad to see it go.
Even better: Can anyone advise what publications they would read if they were interested in innovations in technologies and in their applications, rather than in products? That is, I'm interested in innovations or developments like IoT or blockchain or HTTP/2, and innovative ways to utilize them. Generally I'm not interested in something like the latest MacBook Air; it's significant in the marketplace, but for my purposes it only marginally improves and repackages existing tech.
Almost unbelievably, on mobile my favorite feed reader is Pulse, which LinkedIn bought a year or so back. I've used Feedly, too, and Google's Newsstand, but Pulse seems easier to scan through.
For tech-specific news, HN is the best source to meta-news that's actually technical, as well as human curated weirdness. /r/programming, /r/technology, /r/android, etc are all good, too. Whenever there's a big trade show or launch event, I usually check Pando, TheVerge, UberGizmo and a few others (Re/Code, Mashable, VentureBeat, etc). I have an IFTTT recipe that pushes any new Android app disassembly article from Phandroid and Android Police (they do a FANTASTIC job of analyzing Google app updates for unspecified changes, and also always rehost the APKs). I look for in-depth product reviews from Anandtech. I laugh at XKCD's always timely cartoons.
Note that for the ones I follow via a reader, I almost never go to their site directly, and never see any ads. I do use an adblocker (uBlock), but I am considering uninstalling it because of memory consumption. I'm on a Chromebook most of the time and between Gmail & adblockers, 4GB of RAM just isn't sufficient.
Here's a list in no particular order:
2) pando daily
4) techmeme (another good aggregator)
5) Mit tech review
6) New York Times Bits
7) WSJ D
1. for me.
I have visited his writings in the above link more than the actual Gigaom site. One thing i will say, is that there are some really talented journalists at Gigaom.
(If you happen to know an address for an RSS feed of Technovore, I'd be very appreciative. Fast Company seems to offer only their entire site's headlines (http://feeds.feedburner.com/fastcompany/headlines), which has too poor signal-to-noise to add to my feeds.)
EDIT: Nevermind, found it:
Such a shame. Was always a big fan of Om from back when he'd appear on the Cranky Geeks show and loved what he built at GigaOM.
Sure, the company didn't go down the clickbait road, but it also had come up with revenue models that made up for that. Beyond events, they also had a research group—something that, to a degree, arguably made their real competition Gartner and Forrester.
I wonder what role Om stepping away from the day-to-day played in this. What he said a year ago makes this turn of events seem shocking: https://gigaom.com/2014/02/20/now-that-gigaom-is-all-grown-u...
I really enjoyed it - good people and talks.
There weren't, however, many customers there. It was all other people selling stuff. So I didn't go again.
The recent wave of data related businesses are now generally at the phase where they need to meet potential customers from corporates at events.
Not sure how/if this affects business model though! The profitability of events is opaque to me.
Gigaom had an excellent writing staff, hope they get back on their feet quickly so we can keep reading their pieces.
Sounds like a fairly hostile takeover that no one was expecting. I wouldn't be surprised to see something very similar be spun out of it, perhaps not bearing the name of the departed founder.
This could be a sign of things to come for other online pubs once the funding runs out. Too much competition, too little in the way of sustainable revenue sources, and not enough AOL acquisition cash to go around.
Charging $35-$45 CPMs, depending on the channel. Rates dependent on campaign duration, budget and targeting. 300x250, 300x600 and 970x250 ad units available.
Flipboard campaign: $55 CPM, over 1.5 million readers/month
"1-week channel takeover" - Gigaom homepage channel (1M+ impressions per week) $22K per week - includes two sponsored posts.
Mobile channel $15k, cloud $8k.
$3,000 250-word sponsored post
$5,000 800-word sponsored post
Annual cost appears to be $10k
Here in South Africa, our newspapers and magazines are in steep decline (but still profitable), and it seems everyone under 35 gets their news from ad-supported websites that are probably losing money.
Perhaps Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos were ahead of the curve. People may yet turn back to more traditional news sources, even if they are delivered via more modern mediums, such as tablets, if web advertising supported sites die.
Quite daunting. Everyone hears the success stories and dreams of doing the same, or maybe even better but most fail. The reason I believe people push themselves to entrepreneurship is they ask themselves - "Why can't we? We are as smart as them and we have all the knowledge before us". Failure sucks and not everyone is capable of handling it in a positive way - "So what, I'll do better next time. I won't quit.". Perhaps, what scares me the most from my own 'business adventure'.
It could also be one of the reasons Google just came out with the "Contributors" beta last week. They may have realized the CPC ad model does not pay enough and content creators need better business models to make it worth their time.
Online advertising is a vast and complicated ecosystem with hundreds of companies and lots of politics but all this is to say that sites like Gigaom failing are almost never just down to simple factors as "ads pay less". Some points on online advertising itself though, in random order:
- Overall pageviews online are up, a lot. More people are online now and with more devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, even tvs).
- Ad blockers (depending on the site) can be anywhere from 10-50% of users.
- Desktop is now the minority, usually about 35% of traffic.
- Ad blockers are mostly on desktop, so while they are making an impact, it's somewhat minimized by the shift to mobile.
- Ad blockers are also mostly run by corporations that make money and most allow companies to buy exceptions (Google does this, along with all those recommended links guys like Outbrain, Taboola and dozens of others. To be perfectly honest, we're trying to get on this list as well.)
- There's a difference between branding/awareness campaigns (like for GE) vs performance campaigns (like for Newegg). Awareness is about getting you to recognize, remember, engage with and otherwise think about the brand. Especially important for B2B/enterprise and other companies that don't have things for consumers to buy, or even cheap enough for mainstream. Performance is all about getting a click, or these days even a signup, purchase or some other "action".
- The ability of digital advertising to track things to such a granular level has made everything more efficient, driving down prices to a few cents per click in some cases. The ads you see on a webpage have gone through an entire auction process with dozens of bidders in about 100 milliseconds before you ever see anything.
- Fraud is a huge issue along with viewability (whether an ad actually shows up inside the browser window vs. never being scrolled into view, inactive tab, etc). Early studies have pegged fraud/viewability problems at almost 50% although this is rapidly going down with new companies and standards. Nobody wants fraud and it's a constant arms race.
- There are lots of ad types, everything from display (banners) to rich media (interstitials, popups, expanding/moving/interactive stuff), to native ads, to video, to email, and more. They all work on different parts of the "sales funnel" and there are different strategies in place. One of the biggest is called retargeting. It's when you visit a site then see ads for that same company across the web, even days or weeks later. It's all about making you remember and come back to learn more, buy something, etc. And it works really well.
- Display ads do work. While everyone seems to think that they won't ever click on a banner, Google sees hundreds of millions of clicks a day. Those recommended widgets get tens of millions of clicks a day. Ads work, whether you want to believe it or not, otherwise this industry wouldn't exist. Those billboards on the side of a freeway are far more expensive than small campaigns online but they're still bought because you can measure the effect before and after and see a measurable increase in whatever you're interested in.
- People complain that they get crappy ads, unfortunately they also complain about being tracked. Trust me, ad networks want to get you the best ads as possible. Showing you what you're interested helps everyone. But we can't know who you are, what you've seen or anything else if we can't track you in some way. And for those who are worried about privacy, for all the legit ad platforms, you're nothing more than a randomized id number. Not personal information. If you're worried about that, then stay off Facebook where most people willingly give all their info.
- Most advertising is being shifted to be bought on audiences rather than sites. Native ads are shifting this back somewhat but most modern platforms work by selling audience segments primarily, so as an advertiser you would run a campaign targeting 18-25 males interested in sports for example. Doesn't matter what site, as long as the audience matches and this is facilitated by the efficiency of running the aforementioned auctions (called RTB for Real-Time Bidding).
- While privacy is important, there's an arms race with tracking because advertisers want this audience access. The recent issue with cookies has only made tech companies even better at tracking and there are entire sub-industries dedicated to tracking people across all of their devices. We can do this today. And it will only get better. Again the intentions are to get you better ads but if you're worried about privacy, just be aware that it's not that easy to "hide".
If you've read this far, I hope that helped give some insight into online ads. I'm sorry I can't give exact sources as this is data that comes our ad network and it's not published anywhere, but we do have global coverage and this is very accurate in the US/European region. Disclaimer again: I run https://instinctive.io but feel free to email/message if you want more info.
Is it so hard to understand? Give us ads related to the website content and pay CPM instead CPC to the website owner. On IT sites it would be helpful to see some ads about hardware devices and books, on digital news papers show us cars, holiday destinations, etc.
Instead we are followed by ads of products that we just bought like a plague. With personalized ads, you just make it worse, as more visitor get annoyed and root their mobile device to install adblock.
Meanwhile, Hack-a-day is the only site I remember buying something through their ads, since they actually show relevant stuff. It's not an amazing discovery that I'd be more interested in buying a Raspberry Pi after seeing an article about someone using it in an interesting way, than a pair of boots!
Now eventually those retargeting segments will expire (usually somewhere between 10-30 days) but for the vast majority of people, the constant reminder of boots will actually lead to a sale. Remember we wouldn't do it if it didn't actually work.
There is an issue if you do buy something as ecommerce data is valuable and under strict privacy controls so we don't always get to know you already bought something. And it's much harder if you walk into a store and buy it offline. Add in all the other privacy complaints and its like trying to do the impossible, users expect us to know exactly what they're interested in and what they've bought but don't want us to track anything... We're trying but it's not magic, something in that equation has to change. Either better/more accurate ads or more privacy. It's up to the users to choose.
As a user, what I know is that not only am I being tracked, but the result is fucking boots everywhere. Frankly, I see absolutely no gain from my perspective from the whole thing.
Btw, we track that you've opted-out using the same methods we track everything else. So if you try to get around with adblock, etc then we don't know you've opted-out and we don't know your history either so we show you even worse/generic ads. It's a catch 22 but that's reality.
You've expressed interest in boots, now you'll keep seeing ads for boots until you either buy boots (and that purchase data somehow finds it way back to the retargeting networks) or until the history segment expires. That's what advertising is for. Do you complain about billboards for movies you've already seen? At least online we can be a little bit more dynamic about it. But again, it's very tough with users complaining about privacy and the dozens of companies that data has to go through. You want us to know whether we can ship to you, but we dont have your address. We dont know who you are, where you live, or any of that. There are ways to try and figure this out, but it's usually not worth the cost and again there are privacy issues. Do you want us to know your address? If no, then how do you suggest we solve this?
It's not perfect, there's a massive amount of technology involved but it's still a challenge to tie everything together so I hope you understand that this isnt something we take lightly but its unfortunately the best we can do right now.
Now if you're saying you've never been impacted by ads online, that's pretty much scientifically wrong. Even the smallest impression does add up and eventually influence something down the line. Nobody wants to admit it, and you might not even notice, but I promise it's working.
But that's what people want - generic ads. Instead of spying on user the ad networks should spy on content (crawl the web pages were the ad is on).
It's very easy, the first time an ad is served from a specific page it's new for your network and you show a generic ad related to the topic of the website. Then you crawl the new page. For every new visit of that page you now have some information and can show a related ad to that page!
Hint: That's how Google Ads work. There is no need to spy on visitors.
Contextual relevancy is hard (and what you talked about isn't scalable) but that's not the only issue. A mainstream news site can get a massive amount of people of all kinds, an ad about cars to one might be irrelevant to another. It's just not that simple to show "generic" ads, especially when advertisers increasingly want better and more accurate targeting.
It's better for both sides to have this tracking, companies get better performance and users see what they're actually interested in. Again the legitimate companies don't know anything personal about you... at most we know what you've seen, what you've clicked and can guesstimate that maybe you like a certain thing or another. And 15-30 days later we delete the profile because it's old. Not exactly a giant NSA database of your life here.
- Context is hard. Like I said, there's a shift towards buying audiences rather because there's a lot of automation and real-time bidding infrastructure, so advertisers just target a demographic profile rather than caring about what site it runs on. Newer formats like native ads are more susceptible to context so they're take that more into account but all the banners you see really don't care about the site, in fact it's hard to pass all that information in real time anyway and outside of Google, even the biggest ad companies are not fit to index and categorize the entire internet.
- I appreciate your feedback on what ads to show on what sites but the results when you look in aggregate are very different. Remember, a sample size of 1 is meaningless. We wouldn't be running those ads if they didn't work in some respect and every major network has tons of algorithms and data science to make sure they have an edge. It might be easy to say show car ads on news sites but different ads might perform better depending on audience, site history, location, time, etc so that's what gets shown.
- For the most part though, you will see tech-related ads on tech sites, the industry isn't that bad at targeting and relevance. It's really really hard to believe you never see ads that are at least the slightest bit related to the site.
- Being followed by products/companies you bought goes back to what I mentioned about retargeting. It's works really well. However, it again comes down to tracking. If you don't want to be tracked, how are we supposed to know you've bought something? Remember there's never just one single ad company that knows everything, there are hundreds of different databases tracking different things. Ecommerce/purchases are under even stricter privacy rules than just browsing habits and also more valuable data so companies don't give up access easily. It's about 100x more complicated if it's an offline sale (like buying something at your local store) and trying to tie that back to an online user. We're good at tracking but we're still humans and the tech is impressive but it can't just magically know everything while still respecting people's privacy wishes.
- Pricing is another complicated issue. Part of digital advertising is the ability to track certain actions so the efficiency of performance ads increases by only paying when things perform (clicks, signups, etc). So no performance advertiser will pay CPM when they can pay CPC/CPA instead, and as soon as one network offers it, the rest have to follow or start losing business. It's just not that easy to avoid.
Hope that helps clear up some your questions.
I like the very balanced and technical nature of your analysis, but I am sure I am not the only one you rubbed the wrong way with this.
Since you seem to be tied into the industry, how can we impart to you and your colleagues in adtech it should be the right of us "ad blockers in the desktop minority" people to leave us the hell alone? Do insiders, like yourself, casually write us off in meetings as the enemy or is there more nuance? I am curious of the perception of us and how industry members address it in day-to-day operations. I know you cannot personally invert the system bc I whine on HN.
Also, is running a privacy-centric proxy blocking ad services (Privoxy or hostsblock) enough anymore? I have considered moving to Privoxy as an extreme, in addition to NoScript on FF, specifically to address ETag and cache busting and all this other stuff I have been warned about at the cost of slowing down my browsing. Do your analytics go even lower than that and waste my time? I know you will probably not be comfortable answering this, but I would love to hear from you and others in the industry.
Ad blockers are always considered bad. You're either breaking terms of service or, in some cases, the law by using them. The content you consume is free in exchange for showing you ads. By only consuming without seeing the ads, you're effectively stealing directly from the publishers (site owners). I'll just leave it at that, however you deal with this morally and personally is up to you.
The ad networks do care about this since it's still lost revenue, but our effect is minimized because we often have much bigger reach than just a few sites and can still serve plenty of ads across the entire web. There is an arms race and the big companies just pay to play. Remember the adblock plugins are usually made by for-profit corporations who will grant exceptions for cash so take from that what you will.
You can run your own plugins or filter lists but there are not that many of you who do this to matter much. So yes, we do keep an eye on adblock usage but it's still small enough for us to just not put too much effort on it now. Also there are plenty of companies with some tech to defeat adblockers so that will happen if the industry does decide to focus on it.
As for privacy, I have to ask first, what are you trying to accomplish? Remember you can either have accurate ads best fit for you or have complete privacy. We can't show you stuff that's relevant without tracking, that's just reality. I can't reveal too much but networks usually start tracking with cookies and some more advanced methods by themselves but as they get bigger, we outsource a lot of the tracking to 3rd party companies who are very good at this. There are lots of browser and device fingerprinting technologies and other information that you give off just to visit and render a site that we can use. Even the internet carriers themselves participate in this and you can't really hide from them since most people just have 1 connection. Proxy services will help but again you're sacrificing a lot of convenience and speed for what? To stick it to us? Unless you're running adblockers, we'll just end up serving you generic ads anyway and still tracking as best we can.
I think there's a massive misconception on what exactly you're protecting yourself from. Most user profiles are removed after 15-30-60 days as it becomes stale. We don't collect personally identifying information (but facebook does), we don't track searches (but google does), and it's all just anonymized identifiers. Beyond that, we can always just ask the big data collecting agencies for more information to make a decision without actually collecting/storing anything ourselves (stuff like purchase histories) so you're not giving up much there either. I do understand the battle for privacy but in lots of situations, the issues are overblown if you want my honest opinion.
I tried to respond with a mild tone. I get it. I do not blame you, and I do appreciate your honesty and good amount of technical detail. I just get tired of this general tact, by no means your specific words, that tracking is inevitable you cannot stop it. We have made this culture, and I for one want it gone. I will not people just accept in a public, specifically HN, if I have energy to oppose it.
>The ad networks do care about this since it's still lost revenue, but our effect is minimized because we often have much bigger reach than just a few sites and can still serve plenty of ads across the entire web. There is an arms race and the big companies just pay to play. Remember the adblock plugins are usually made by for-profit corporations who will grant exceptions for cash so take from that what you will.
Touche. I had since moved away from the obvious culprits (AdBlock in all variants, disconnect.me) and only use uBlock when I have to allow all through NoScript, as I need content off a website that only renders text content with many CDN's and junk enabled (not all former are the latter, but there is overlap). Now, I can tell default whitelist from NoScript is bought off, so I remove a lot of it from the beginning and set more aggressive defaults by browsing a few comments sites and turning everything off beyond what is necessary. So I am well aware of that, and try to stick to what I think is right, not trusting adblockers primarily, but NoScript and redirecting many malicious ad and bot networks to my hosts file on my local computer and running a blank webpage. As others have noted, my browsing performance is better and my experience cleaner.
I know by virtue of your interest you do not have that scummy level of ad that necessitates my use of these things, but how can I know to trust you over thousands of companies without auditing all of you?
> As for privacy, I have to ask first, what are you trying to accomplish? Remember you can either have accurate ads best fit for you or have complete privacy. We can't show you stuff that's relevant without tracking, that's just reality. I can't reveal too much but networks usually start tracking with cookies and some more advanced methods by themselves but as they get bigger, we outsource a lot of the tracking to 3rd party companies who are very good at this. There are lots of browser and device fingerprinting technologies and other information that you give off just to visit and render a site that we can use. Even the internet carriers themselves participate in this and you can't really hide from them since most people just have 1 connection. Proxy services will help but again you're sacrificing a lot of convenience and speed for what? To stick it to us? Unless you're running adblockers, we'll just end up serving you generic ads anyway and still tracking as best we can.
I want security and my internet profile, even anonymized, used to facilitate garbage I do not approve of. To be honest, I am sure your company products are not who I am worried about. But I think I have to not run interactive content using any form of code you send to my machine without express authorization because most self-respecting computer enthusiasts no what that means. Now if only ad distributors and web apps had centralized repos of JS content, even obfuscated, signed from a central repository that browsers could turn and off like yum/apt/zypper repos, I would been in love (yes, I know this is a joke and pipe dream).
I know some clients of your industry feel strongly about this, and prevent me from viewing any page without JS, for ads and otherwise. There is a balance, and I will walk it. But as an IT tech of approaching 10 years, I trust no dynamic content in the browser unless I can load the page without it first. Even I have potentially infected my computer according to work IDS tools. Me, and you can see unlike 98% of our userbase, I actually care and pay attention. You better be damn sure I can read text, or it must be a very legit site for my purposes (Github, Reddit, I even disable HN bc they are one of a handful sites I use without JS ever enabled, I loved you for it HN). I wish it was altruism, but it is really functionality. I can handle ads, within reason. But should my belief that potentially malicious hot-loaded content is a concern I am not willing to fight for in court? I have plenty of broken computers in my office to attest to that.
> I think there's a massive misconception on what exactly you're protecting yourself from. Most user profiles are removed after 15-30-60 days as it becomes stale. We don't collect personally identifying information (but facebook does), we don't track searches (but google does), and it's all just anonymized identifiers. Beyond that, we can always just ask the big data collecting agencies for more information to make a decision without actually collecting/storing anything ourselves (stuff like purchase histories) so you're not giving up much there either. I do understand the battle for privacy but in lots of situations, the issues are overblown if you want my honest opinion.
I think yes, I owe you a concession. But I want to be clear, the big fish in this giant ocean are destroying the tolerance we have for operations like yourself: small-pond fish trying to make it big. I do not trust the FB, Google, or Social Anything. I try to browse Google search results with static HTML if possible (now using DDG HTML only results more often, or using it as a Google proxy with !g redirect on queries), I hardly ever enable the CDNs or ajaxapis.g.c utility servers on pages on less absolutely necessary since we know they probably store such data in diagnostic logs for decades to come, legal or extra-legally.
In the age of secret warrants, why do I need to give you the benefit of the doubt? I mean, your industry, will all due respect, sells market items; it does not cure cancer. At a philosophical level (I know this is not where your appeal comes from), why should I trust you? Other people I trust less than you will petition you for your much larger competitor's data and build a public internet profile of what I am up to. What will stop you from ending up in their dragnet 5-10 years from now?
Keep in mind I live in the Arab World. I am no prude, but even AdWords, for personal and work computers I see daily on many sites, show giant billboard sidebar ads saying Meet Qatari Singles (in of itself hilarious) with women with large breasts and generous cleavage. I see this even on computers with veiled women working at them. Even I find this messed up. When people are on my computer, it makes me look like a sketchball. If I have to quick search sites at someone's desk to research a problem I have not seen before and stumble upon this crap, how do I look? The extremes of the industry bring good eggs like you down, even the most elite of them. How should I filter you guys? This is a hard problem. I ask rhetorically.
Now, if you write an industry rag shame practices and starting to list good example/bad example companies, I wouldl love to read it, as I will know how selective I should be with my filtering. But for the time being, NoScript on, default Google stuff removed (yes you are right after), and cynicism in full swing.
Wasn't this only ABP and maybe Adblock? That's certainly not 'most' adblockers.
GigaOM is a wide subject site and only brand awareness ads would make sense.
For click-my-ad-to-buy-my-stuff hopeful advertiser - it's a waste of money.
Cannot a site like this be ran by 10-15 people? Maybe I'm missing where the labour is going.
50K is not enough to keep operations running, 100K would work with editors from low-wage countries.
But still a bit odd that they ran out of money.
They tried to resurrect it but the damage was done
― Ernest Hemingway
My totally unfounded theory/opinion is they were overfunded and the investors wanted to get out after not seeing the growth levels they wanted (which in publishing is not a big surprise, you almost never see SaaS or consumer app levels of growth there).
We're seeing a reprise of earlier forms of media. Truth is: there is a social (and business) need for quality and reasonably unbiased information. There's also value to those who want to control such a feed (the dark side of media). Advertising has sustained the concept in some form or another for several hundred years, with a few big shake-ups. But there've also be (and continue to be) highly ideological organizations (see Fox News / NewsCorp / WSJ, well know, but also The Economist, and on the left, papers such as The Guardian, Mother Jones, or The Christian Science Monitor).
The problem, in an online era, of subscriptions only is that it closes your distribution down too much. Providing early access might be a way around that, though information tends to get out very, very quickly. Of numerous bad options, it strikes me as one of the less-bad (see LWN.net which uses it).
Another is partnering with someone who has a clear interest in your demographic -- DICE buying Slashdot, for example, though that doesn't seem to be going all too well from either a content or business stand point so far as I can tell. Hacker News follows the same model, more successfully (on both grounds) via Ycombinator.
Advertising, though, seems to me a dead end. And it's going to be all kinds of hurt for the current iteration of Silicon Valley if it plays out as I suspect it will.
I hadn't heard of the site until recently and now I've seen a few fairly low-brow articles from it on the front page here in the last 24 hours.
If there's a higher-brow article on this story we'll happily change the url.