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One question we get from our readers about North Palm Beach Life is, "Where are the ads?"
The answer is simple: There aren't any.
Don't get us wrong -- revenue is certainly welcome here. But having spent the better part of a career building and running websites for major media companies, I've arrived at this conclusion: There has to be a better way.
We all know advertising has been part of media for almost as long as media has been around. If it has an audience, it can have a sponsor. As one of my favorite comedians, Robert Klein, once noted: If the first words Neil Armstrong spoke when he took that famous first step on the moon were "Coca-Cola," he would have been "set for seven lifetimes."
Everyone knows advertising is how companies pay to print a newspaper or broadcast programming on the airwaves. It picks up the tab so we can enjoy a Free Press (free in the sense the government doesn't control it). It's something the information-consuming public has long accepted as a reasonable trade-off.
Then the World Wide Web came along and upset everybody's apple cart.
For the media, and many other businesses, it was Disruption with a capital "D" on a massive scale.
For media companies, the first order of business was stake a claim to a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and then launch a website as quickly as possible. Business plan? Nah ... that could come later. For newspapers, web users could read the same content subscribers were paying for, free -- and get it sooner. Huh?
With the search engine aggregators posting news links from around the world, and consumers with the new-found power to pick and choose at their discretion -- the news they want, when they want it -- the old media business model got turned on its head.
But not to worry -- we'll have ads on our website to make up the difference. Except, as noted many times, print dollars turned into digital dimes. Google and Facebook, with users in the (B)illions, rewrote the media playbook, and now they call the shots. It's all about scale and targeting (the right ads to the right person at the right time). When you have both, you are the King of the Media Hill.
Some 20 years after the Web made the scene, some newspapers have backtracked and erected paywalls, charging users to read their content online, a move some pundits call, "too little, too late." The jury is out on that one. But back to the ads.
As any web user will tell you, they come at you in all shapes and sizes, and their intrusiveness managed to irritate readers pretty much from the get-go. With the ever-mounting pressure on the bottom line, now publishers pile them on until even at high speed, pages either take forever to load or cause content to jump all over the screen -- or both. And don't you just love it when random music and voices suddenly blare over your computer from a video you didn't want in the first place?
Whether surfing on a smartphone or from the desktop, ads dominate. Takeovers, pop-ups, pop-unders, video pre- and post-rolls, sliding billboards, peel-backs, banners, buttons, native ... it's a long list.
Again, no argument here: Ads have their place, providing readers content that has value in its own right. A Free Press doesn't come with a Free Lunch. And God knows today we need our newspapers and the role they play more than ever.
Maybe it's me, or maybe it's because I've left corporate and have become plain Joe Reader, but the sheer volume and weight of the ads have made going to the websites I frequent all but unusable. Not to mention fueled a stampede toward downloads of Ad Blocker apps and programs, the newest web cottage industry.
Recently, The New York Times even floated an idea for a new subscription model that's ad-free, thinking folks might pony up if they could avoid the ads altogether. (Not a new notion, by the way. When we suggested that back in the day at DallasNews.com, it lasted about a hot minute.)
All of which is a long-winded answer to, "Why aren't there ads on North Palm Beach Life"?
Sure, we know we don't have the scale to draw interest from the Big Boys. We're just a little fish in a big ocean. But regardless, in the seven months since launch, we do have a respectable readership, and could at the least place Google AdSense. We have chosen not to -- at least for now.
So what is the business model? Like the newspaper industry 20 years on, we're still figuring it out. Frankly, I like the PBS approach: Invite readers to contribute whatever they choose if they find our site informative and entertaining -- the GoFundMe option (also an idea some news organizations have kicked around).
There is also merit in having an overall site sponsor. And done right, native advertising is another option.
While we noodle on that, please continue to enjoy your ad-free, fast-loading experience on North Palm Beach Life. There aren't many websites going that route. They can't afford to.
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."