Dear news orgs: Remnant is hurting you. Please stop.

Remnant is important. For many news orgs it is a pretty good source of revenue — not enough money to support the newsroom but a nice revenue stream nonetheless.

But it’s going to kill our business.

  • It’s bad for your brand. Nobody can convince me scammy ads for the Acai Berry diet or cheaper car insurance help reinforce your brand as a brand to trust.
  • It’s bad for the user. Nobody pays attention to remnant ads because it’s not relevant — remnant isn’t usually local — and because most of it is drivel (see above). Ads are content, too — you wouldn’t publish a story on your front page that isn’t relevant to any of your readers, would you?
  • It’s bad for business.  Because we’ve been conditioned to ignore advertising online because of remnant, most of us completely ignore ads. This creates the impression that nobody pays attention to online advertising because it’s true. CPMs drop and it makes it a lot harder for you to sell ads.

I really vividly remember one ad that I’ve seen online. It was more than a year ago, and I don’t remember what site I was on, but it was an ad for a Dyson vacuum cleaner. The top of the site was black, and the ad fully integrated in — it used the full width of the site. It was a simple ad — I think it was just a vacuum on a black background that moved a bit to show how it worked but wasn’t obnoxious, then displayed some text. The ad stuck in my mind long after I’d forgotten about the site and whatever essay I’d been reading.

Those are the kinds of ads we need to build and put on our websites. Our readers will appreciate us because of it. Ads will overall become more effective because of it. Readers won’t think we’re trying to sell them crap because we won’t be.

One last thing: There are a few ad networks that are doing things right. The Deck Network and and Fusion Ads are exclusive: They limit who can advertise on their networks, and they limit what sites display their ads. Both stipulate that only one ad is displayed on the page. And both limit the size and content of ads — just a few hundred characters of text and a small image. This sort of advertising isn’t for everyone, but newspapers would be making a lot more money if we collective went more in that direction.

Remnant is killing any chance of news orgs making significant money online. Let’s find a better way to do things.

4 thoughts on “Dear news orgs: Remnant is hurting you. Please stop.

  1. Is there a Fusion Ads for news organizations? Or a remnant network for news orgs that is devoted to beautiful, targeted ads? Maybe there should be one.

  2. Adam Hemphill asks on Twitter: “What would be the primary metric for targeting, just location?”

    I think the key would be some sort of dynamic analysis of content, so you can deliver ads that are related to what the person is reading.

    Newspapers have (or, at least, used to have) national ads in print. They were high-quality ads, and the papers got paid a lot for them. Online, remnant has supplanted national advertising and turned the revenue model upside down. What used to be a source of high-quality, high-revenue ads is now a source of almost no revenue and the ad quality is crap.

    • Other metrics: Only advertise to readers who have visited this site x times. An ad network can track a readers’ interest across sites as well.

      It would be great for news orgs to have really powerful ad software at their fingertips. Whatever tool was built to serve the ads on the network could be opened up to its members as well, sort of like what Google does with DoubleClick For Publishers.

  3. Pingback: Two things I hate about tech journalism this week | Rob Pegoraro

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