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.