July 12, 2002

Why Most Internet Advertising Fails - The Meaning of a Link
In Small Pieces Loosely Joined, David Weinberger discusses how linking is a way of showing visitors what a site creator's passions are. For example, I really enjoyed most of David's book, so I linked to it. I enjoy reading those blogs over there on the left, so I link to them. There is an underlying understanding between site visitor and site creator that the links on a page show the site creator's passions (if not passions at least links to sites their visitors will find useful). And if the site visitor likes what the site creator has to say, he/she will probably like what the site creator links to.

Theoretically, this makes online media placements (e.g. paid-for links) the equivalent of a bribe in the eyes of the site visitor. "I'll give ya a hundred bucks for puttin my link on your page." What does that say about the integrity of the link to the site visitor? The only relationship between the site creator and the advertiser is a financial one. And that's what drives the decision to place an ad. And because this is apparent to the site visitor, the ad holds no true value in their eyes, unless if their one of the .03% lucky ones who actually see an ad that's is relevant to their needs.

One place this theory doesn't hold true is on search engines -- which may explain why keyword buys get a good response -- and really any kind of data driven site (i.e. Internet Yellow Pages). Here there is an understanding between site visitor and site creator that the site is going to provide reliable data, whether it be businesses in my area selling air conditioning repair service, or sites created by people who love to knit (trust me there's a bunch).

Where does this leave Internet advertising and marketing?

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