MSNBC has it 100% right by banning banner ads on its site. Enough is enough. The truth is that most marketers who buy banners to achieve "reach" might as well be burning their money. I put reach in quotes, because the word should refer to the number of people that actually consume a marketing message, with the marketing message actually reaching those folks.
Today on the Internet it's easily possible to very cheaply buy a BILLION banner "impressions" "reaching" hundreds of millions of people, but how many people will actually be impacted in any way by a message delivered like this? On the Web, reach numbers are far too easily gamed.
Meanwhile, quality publishers like MSNBC trying to play the impression game are forced to make decisions that hurt the consumer experience just to compete, and do not necessarily deliver more value to their advertisers. Enough is enough. It's time to kick the impression addiction -- or, better yet, it's time to reset the definition of an impression to favor quality publishers.
I am not saying that all impressions are worthless, rather that in an Excel spreadsheet the worthless ones look indistinguishable from the good ones. I am also saying that even good impressions simply give marketers a chance for delivering their message to consumers. Effective media for marketers is the ability to have a consumer's undivided attention -- what they do with it is up to them.
Look at the ultimate advertising medium to date, television. Television commercials don't run on the side of the screen while you watch your favorite television shows. That would be a terrible consumer experience and less effective for advertisers. No one would think this is a good outcome, so why is it on the Internet?
It's true that you cannot count on an interruptive model, such as the television commercial, in order to deliver a consumer's undivided attention from the content he sought out to advertising content that pays the bills. But quality publishers should have no problem asking their readers/viewers to willingly engage with a reasonable amount of advertising in exchange for access to content. Publishers just need to be able to count this impression of a willing consumer's undivided attention differently from the bulk of impressions delivered that don't have the same impact.
Thoughts? As always, your comments (see below) and tweets (www.twitter.com/joemarchese) are appreciated.