Are Media Companies Out-Innovating Their Advertisers?

In “Three Ways the Media is Innovating with New Interfaces“, Micro Persuasion blogger Steve Rubel argues that “media must innovate their way out of this situation from both editorial and sales, but no one seems to be really doing so on the advertising side.” By “this situation”, he means the dismal quality of display ads that is suffering in lockstep with the economy as a whole.

There are lots of people who beat up on media for its mistakes, but it’s interesting that Rubel singles out advertisers. On the editorial side, he praises innovations such as nytxplorer and even “retro” subscriber-based models, like Sporting News Today. He’s also optimistic that media companies will exploit the user experience potential of the iPhone and Kindle.

But he raises the concern that advertising is behind–and this is a major concern if media companies are bound to the ad-supported model. My own hope is that we find a way to move beyond that model. But, if not, then it’s important that advertising catch up with editorial, of all of the latter’s innovation will be in vain.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

4 replies on “Are Media Companies Out-Innovating Their Advertisers?”

I commented on this a few years ago (April 2006 — yes I’ve had the commenting habit for quite a while now) on Paul Lamere’s blog, about why advertising cannot catch up to media. Good media is simply not “advertiseable”. You can’t really pair it up with anything relevant.

The idea is Google trying to sell relevant advertising against a Music search/recommender service. It’s what happens when the Google keyword-matching mindset meets something with a little more creativity: music lyrics.



Jeremy, that is awesome! Though I’d hope today you could actually make the in-line ads part of the audio track (e.g., on YouTube).

I’m curious if any of the various lyrics sites have AdSense set up so we can see this keyword-matching in action. Strikes me as having potential as an endless source of humor…


There was a classic early-days AdSense gaff that you may remember. There was a AP article about a woman who had been murdered and stuffed inside of a suitcase. It had been picked up and syndicated. And almost everywhere that Google AdSense appeared next to that story, it was serving advertisements for suitcases. Ouch.

Now that sort of thing can be corrected for, by doing some sort of “sensitive theme” classification. But with most media, there is nothing you can correct it to, because by its very nature, media is creative, not literal.


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