Yes, The CPM Is Holding Back Online Advertising

from the time-to-get-rid-of-it dept

Last week, Shelby Bonnie, former CEO of CNET wrote a great guest piece for TechCrunch, where he suggested killing off CPM as a measurement for online advertising. I'd go even further, and suggest that the obsession with CPM has seriously harmed online advertising. The key point is the one that Bonnie makes first: if you pay for impressions, you create incentives to get impressions. But impressions, by themselves, are not particularly useful, especially when everyone making those impressions ignores the advertisement itself.

We've experienced this first hand. While we do offer some CPM-based advertising on the site, we've made it clear that such display advertising is a waste for most companies. Our audience doesn't pay much attention to it at all. Ad blindness is the rule. Instead, we always suggest to companies who approach us about advertising that they would get a much better and much more valuable bang for their buck by engaging our community via the Insight Community. Doing so isn't strictly "advertising," but it actually gets the attention and engagement of the smart folks who hang around here. And, on top of that, beyond just getting people to see your brand, the company actually gets something of value back -- insightful analysis from our community.

And yet... some of the people we speak to can't even comprehend how getting people to engage is smarter than just pushing annoying banner ads that will get ignored. You can always tell when you're dealing with that sort of person when they start focusing on how to calculate the CPM value of an Insight Community case. They ask how many impressions it will get. These are people who would much rather one million people totally ignore their ad, though it gets loaded in the background somewhere, than have a committed group of targeted individuals actually engaging with the brand. It makes no sense at all, but it's the type of conclusion people come to when they focus so much on CPM. When the CPM rules all, then all you get are impressions -- and there are all sorts of games sites can (and often do) use to boost impressions with totally worthless traffic.

Hopefully advertisers really are waking up to the pointlessness of CPM as a an ad measurement system, and really are interested in exploring true engagement. That would be a huge step forward in taking online marketing and advertising from the level its at today (which is mostly just replicating print advertising, but online) to where it belongs tomorrow: taking real advantage of the interactive nature of the medium.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    senshikaze (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    and then

    There is adblock plus.
    What cpm?
    :)

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    South Butt, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    "and now a word from our sponsors"

    who are all pretty much paying CPM or click rates.

    Mike, why not live by the word and drop all the ads on your site? Obviously advertising sucks!

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    Re:

    YES! REFUSE to give the customer what they want! You are a genius businessman, my friend...

     

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  4.  
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    Ron (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    What?

    What, you have ... oh look, there ARE ads on your page. Never saw 'em until now. Gonna continue to ignore 'em in the future. Thanks for pointing them out.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:33pm

    Yes...push your product as a alternative to CPM...

     

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  6.  
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    joe, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:34pm

    CPM is cost per thousand impressions. In the companies I have worked at CPM effectiveness is measured in the number of clicks per thousand impressions and after that the number of order completions from the people who have clicked. This article doesn't really make any sense to me.

     

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  7.  
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    DEF, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:35pm

    Re: Re:

    IF what your customer wants isn't in their best interests, is it a good idea for your long-term business to just provide that rather than providing better alternatives? I don't think so.

     

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  8.  
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    joe, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:35pm

    Should have added M is the Roman numeral for 1000.

     

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  9.  
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    Skoalrebel, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 3:59pm

    cost this brave new world out

    Perhaps it makes more sense if you consider it from their point of view -- a CPM-style ad costs them $X to place and $Y to have made (employee/contractor/freelance costs), both finite amounts that can be easily budgeted. To actually engage a tech audience interactively (however more effective it would be) would be an ongoing expense, utilizing at least one person doing a job that didn't exist before, say, 2000. You can see how that would be a big step into the unknown, and unconducive to ass-covering vis a vis the higher-ups. (Hard to create metrics for goodwill, which has long been a problem in the traditional ad business. Much easier to say "this TV ad buy will guarantee every child in America will see your ad three times".)

    Also, not all products are a good fit for this new kind of advertising/PR. Most people buy only one, perhaps two houses in a lifetime -- do they need an ongoing relationship with a realtor or house-builder that could be facilitated by some kind of web community? What brand of water heater do you have? Would you spend time reading, eg, a blog for a water heater manufacturer if you didn't immediately need, or anticipate needing one?

     

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  10.  
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    TW (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:04pm

    Stuck in the stone age

    Mike, you are right on the money. CPM is a remnant of old-school offline marketing (newspapers, magazines, TV, radio) where it was very difficult to measure much of anything other than how many consumers "saw" your ad. Marketers and ad agencies needed some kind of metric to show what they were accomplishing for their clients, so measuring views or impressions and comparing that to the cost to generate them became the industry standard measurement. But, with the advent of the internet, marketers were actually able to close the loop and measure an advertising initiative's effectiveness at not only being seen, but also acted upon. The next baby step up is CPC (cost per click) which at least requires a consumer to click on an ad. But, even better is being able to tie it to a more involved action, such as completing a sale. But, many companies remain stuck on CPM as the ultimate measure. As senior management at both ad agencies and other companies includes more and more internet savvy people, we should hopefully see a shift toward more effective advertising metrics.

     

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  11.  
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    Your Ads Are Google AdSense, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    Your ads are Google's Ads

    With the amount of Google AdSense ads on your page here, it would seem that no one is really willing to pay you for banners anyway. So you hope visitors like me click on a Google text link so you can get your $0.80 cents worth from them on a monthly or even quarterly basis.

    Google had it right... serve up billions of impressions for FREE and get paid only when someone clicks. (although we all know there are ways to juke that system too)

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Your ads are Google's Ads

    With the amount of Google AdSense ads on your page here, it would seem that no one is really willing to pay you for banners anyway.

    Heh. That's not even close to true. Google Adsense represent less than 10% of our ad revenue. Our banner ad inventory is actually sold out right now. People buy. We just wish they'd go with the Insight Community instead -- because they would get a lot more value for it.

    But we're not going to turn down companies who just want banner ads. We just know that most of you will ignore them.

    So you hope visitors like me click on a Google text link so you can get your $0.80 cents worth from them on a monthly or even quarterly basis.

    No, we don't care. We figure almost no one clicks, but it's been an interesting learning experience to see how Google AdSense works.

     

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  13.  
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    senshikaze, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 5:45pm

    Re: Re: Your ads are Google's Ads

    what are your feeling on adblock plus? (yes i am senshikaze from above, just too lazy to log in :) )
    I don't see the majority of 3rd party ads on most pages on the net, so cpm and other metrics completely leave me out. I am interested in your insight deal, though, and may even try to participate, if for no other reason than it is "different" than the traditional approach to ads.

     

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  14.  
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    Big Al, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 5:59pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    tell that to Philip Morris

     

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  15.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Your ads are Google's Ads

    what are your feeling on adblock plus?

    What about it? I don't feel particularly anything towards it. I don't use it, but I assume lots of people do, and I have no problem with that. Why would I have a problem with how people use their own computers?

     

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  16.  
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    Nathania Johnson, Oct 2nd, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    While CPM doesn't generate as much value in direct conversions as things like paid search or even earned media, it certainly still has value. There's pretty clear evidence that display ads drive people to search, for example. At that point, search engine optimization or paid search kicks in.

    CPM should remain a low-cost option until/unless (better) measurements show greater viability. But the best online marketers are going holistic. They're creating coordinated campaigns involving search, social media, display, engagement, digital PR, etc. It's not about one or the other. It's about optimizing each medium for maximum benefit.

     

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  17.  
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    senshikaze, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Your ads are Google's Ads

    alot of websites have the ability to tell if you have adblock running. some(very few that i have found, thankfully) even make it impossible to use their site as long as adblock is enabled. That kind of thing bugs me. I mean I wasn't going to look at the ads anyway and now i am not even going to go to the site at all. how does that the people with the ads and the advertisers? Kind of a bonehead move in my opinion.

     

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  18.  
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    TheStupidOne, Oct 4th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re:

    That section is blank on my screen ...

     

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  19.  
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    EH, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 4:24am

    Insight Community and CPM

    how to calculate the CPM value of an Insight Community case. They ask how many impressions it will get.

    I can sort of understand that - if I were looking to advertise, and had little knowledge of Techdirt, I would want to make sure that more than like 3 people were going to look at it, and would probably ask the question using the language I was used to dealing with when talking about advertising - CPM.

     

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  20.  
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    YouAreWrong, Oct 5th, 2009 @ 7:21am

    Re: Insight Community and CPM

    except i have yet to see a TIC case that wasn't a joke. and every single response i've seen reads like over-generalized super-conclusory drivel by some undergrad freshman who is "in touch with the blogosphere."

     

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  21.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 5th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Re: Insight Community and CPM

    Are you one of the people who thinks a "good consulting and analysis" needs to be put into landscape format PPT, have a 4x4 matrix, and backed by a name like McKinsey or PWC?

    Yeah, then I guess I can see how the TIC just looks like so much rambling to you. Enjoy paying $600/hr/person for the formatting.

     

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  22.  
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    Yeebok (profile), Oct 14th, 2009 @ 11:45pm

    Err .. ads ? Where ?

    I haven't seen one on here - ever.

    Wonder what happens if I turn adblock off .. nah ..

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Rob Leathern, Oct 17th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    CPM advertising - we need more performance models

    I wrote a blog post about this:
    http://www.cpmadvisors.com/2009/10/16/cpm-cpa-hybrid-performance/

    We really need better hybrid performance models in the online ad space. And no, CPC is not it because it can be gamed too easily. I think as you say as a publisher you guys are giving advice to the advertiser on how they can be successful on your site and for that you should be applauded. the revenue model for advertising should also reflect and benefit from both the advertiser and the publisher working together to figure out the best ways/places in which to place ads and make them work.

     

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  24.  
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    Ahmad Moradi PhD, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    CPM

    I really think "Time" is a better assessment and gauge as length of stay for brands instead of worthless CPM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Post Free Classified Ads, Mar 12th, 2010 @ 2:28am

    Post Free Classified Ads

    I agree, drop the ads from your website.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Stefano, Mar 27th, 2010 @ 11:55am

    good cpm network

    I think now topeuro.biz and theirs popunders onclick are very profitable CPM advertise

     

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  27.  
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    chris, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    Very good CPM paying network

    Try Adprudence. They pay very good CPM.It works on Real time bidding basis so you earn high CPM. I am very happy with it after trying tons of other networks. Join adprudence.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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