Fine Lines

So far on this entrepreneurial quest, I've picked up that making money on the internet as a publisher is a tricky enterprise--especially if the project aims to be journalistic.

It didn't used to be so tricky. In the beginning, when advertisers didn't know anything about the internet or its users, they were much more willing to spend money on, say, a display ad. Now, they know how many users click on ads, and they know how long those people stay on the product's site. And they use both of these indicators to determine whether or not advertising on a specific site is worth their while.

Take for example a site like Ecopolitology, which is part of Matt Embrey's LiveOak Network. Say there's a Nissan Leaf ad on the site. I don't know what Nissan's sales strategy is, but it would make sense that they would be targeting readers of a site like Ecopolitology--which focuses on the politics of climate change and clean energy. But Nissan doesn't want to be paying for ads unless people are clicking AND reading about the Leaf, and this puts publishers like Embrey in an awkward situation. Already strapped for cash and somewhat at the mercy of the advertisers, it may not be a smart business decision to run a story that examines the drawbacks of electric cars, especially if it mentions the Leaf. On the other hand, posts examining the environmental benefits of electric cars, or a video that highlights the high-tech features the Leaf, is the kind of content that might inspire more click-throughs.

Obviously, every advertiser offers a different product, and each relationship is different. Some--like, for example, one with an online college, or a Haiti earthquake relief organization--are not so inherently awkward as the Nissan example. But still, the current situation is something wannabe publishers, as well as wannabe multimedia content-makers, should be thinking about.

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