About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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June 06, 2009



This is absolutely the case. It was one of the reasons I wrote about in my list of profound changes in the media business:


With the rise of information technology, businesses can get to know their customers much better due to advances in computer technology. The airlines, banks, hotels, department stores and grocery stores I do business with know my buying habits. They can use that data to create targeted offers that will appeal to me. Harris Teeter, a regional grocery store chain, sends out an e-circular that highlights the items customers have bought in the past. These personalized offers can be delivered for little cost.

Not only can they reach people more cheaply, they can reach people with messages that are more likely to resonate than what traditional media has allowed.

It's fascinating to see how quickly the hotel and airline companies have adopted twitter, with some running daily, hourly or two hour fares.

I doubt an advertiser could call a newspaper, TV station or radio station and have a message delivered within minutes or even hours.


Mark, this is something I have written about also, and as I noted in Jeff's comments:

Sorry to toot my own horn but you are coming around to something I started get at with my story on Yelp:


"But Yelp's founders have invented a Web site that cleaves local online advertising from journalism, right when journalism needs it most. Yelp is the evolution and replacement for the actually quite useful local advertising that used to appear in newspapers, only without the pesky journalism breaking up the ad pages."


"While newspapers and the AP are fighting with Google and getting excited about the Kindle DX, a site that is driving 25 million uniques a month of local arts, culture, dining, and business traffic is turning into their competition."

The point being not so much that the concept of advertising is a failure, but rather that the advertising as practiced by the newspaper industry is-- here the web is giving us all these incredibly community tools and the best newspapers (and to be fair, most websites) have done is to come up with new sizes of banner ads. Innovate.

Mark Potts

Thanks, Paul. I've been saying exactly the same thing for the past few months: that Yelp is very quietly eating newspapers' lunch in the entertainment field in pretty much exactly the same way craigslist destroyed classifieds. See my Charm City post from a couple days ago, where I parenthetically made that point. It's a big problem, and newspapers, with their generally lousy local entertainment and calendaring tools, are pretty much oblivious to it, unfortunately. And I've long been a champion of innovating beyond the banner ad, as well. Great minds...

Walter Abbott

Something from earlier this year.


The end of advertising?
by henrycopeland
Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The key graf:

"With supply doubling and demand stagnant or down, advertising prices are headed to zero for any property that doesn’t deliver VERY compelling value to advertisers."

James daSilva

I've been wondering this for months.
It's not about banner ads, though.
It's about eliminating anything that intrudes upon the reader. That, for some, can even include ad links on text within a story, listing, review, etc. On a broader level, it means any effective advertising.
Not all advertisers are going to love this, though. Sure, they can distribute their message themselves, but they'll reach fewer people and have a harder time reaching outside their loyal customer base.
And media? Well, online media is going to wish they had the ad problem of newspapers during this decade.
Forget declining ad revenue. How about none.
Maybe people are right to believe in the great flow of citizen journalism (not the good people running hyperlocal sites -- I mean this wave of volunteerism from the populace that's supposed to augment that).
But maybe most people will say, "All this work and no revenue anywhere? No, thanks."

Mark Potts

Janes: Thanks for the comment. To your last point: One of the great secrets of user-generated content--and this disturbs professional journalists no end--is that many "citizen journalists" write about their communities and their interests for reasons other than money. They want to share their knowledge, they want to be seen as experts, they want to reach out to their community, etc. That drives an enormous amount of content, already, and will continue to in the future. So a revenue model may not be as much as a factor as some people would like to think.

Having said that, I think we should be trying to support all of these efforts with revenue in any way we can. But that's not necessarily the participants' main motivation.


As reading this, I checked with Jeff's blog and thechaosscenario.net of Bob's new book. I know that the topic "advertising age is over" is quite argued among people now. But is it really dying? It's true that all the tradition media is losing their effects, but will they be abandoned by marketers at all? I wonder...

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