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Web Advertising

The Problem with Web Advertising. Shortly after graphics made their way onto the web, web pages started selling space to run banner ads. Attempting to generate more click throughs from these ads, designers created increasingly flashier ads. At first there was the simple animated GIF. Now there is the "Punch the Monkey" ad that lets you interact with it by bludgeoning a primate as it frantically runs back and forth. As fun as this is, many web surfers feel that these ads distract from the content that they want on the web page. Users have learned to ignore flashy ads. Studies show that the user's eye is usually drawn away from the ad, and might not even notice it at all.

Other problems facing the advertiser are new programs that block the computer's web browser from even downloading advertisements, so these cleverly designed ads are never seen by the web surfer. This raises ethical issues. Should you take information that a web page has provided you without also taking the opportunity to hammer the monkey a good one in the mouth (humor aside, an action that the web page's owner hopes will make him money). Proponents of these programs bring up the greatly reduced download times when you do not download these ads. This saves companies money by allowing their employees to be more efficient. Many of these companies are the same ones who advertise on the web. They might save more money by increased employee efficiency than they lose by people not seeing their ads.

A New Economic Economic Model - Payment Based Web Services. In the past few years, experts have questioned the effectiveness of ads, causing those who had advertised on the web to buy less ad space. Many startup companies generated most of their revenue by running banner ads on their web pages, and went out of business as a result. The web is looking for a new economic model.

Many web sites are going to a subscription model where some, or even all, of their content can only be accessed by paying customers. This lets customers get the content they want without the distractions of banner ads, but it is an all or nothing deal. You can't pay a smaller amount to access just a few pages on the site.

Jakob Nielsen proposed a micro-payment system where you are charged a small amount (probably a cent or even fraction of a cent) for every page you view. He estimates that the average web surfer would run up a bill of $10 - $30 a month. This is low enough to keep you from weighing too heavily on the decision to look at a page, and it would allow the web site's owner to make money without forcing horrid banner ads on you.

Some people raise ethical questions about charging for a web page, saying that information should be free. Others point out that it costs to host this information, and those who benefit from it should pay these costs. People who think it should be free claim that advertisements should pay for these costs, not users who are gathering the information.