Commentary

Just an Online Minute... More on Paid Search

Yesterday's minute about paid search certainly ruffled some feathers. My inbox is flooded with responses and aside from those people who didn't read closely enough to see that I wasn't in any way bashing paid search, most readers agree that the paid search hype should be closely monitored. I was going to save it for tomorrow's Letters to the Editor edition, but Jarvis Coffin, CEO of BURST! Media, sent in a response that sums it up too well not to be reprinted here. He wrote:

"It's great to see at least one pundit in the marketplace not get swept away by the Internet's latest success story, in this case, Paid Search. Over the years we have been ready - almost eager - to mint this or that Internet solution as the silver bullet of Internet advertising. Push technology, user profiling, email and click-through measurement were all silver bullet candidates at one time or the other. Like the hula-hoop, these frenzies are recognizable because at the peak of their influence every kid-on-the-block has to have one. So it is with paid search today: everyone has to have one.

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"Paid search has made an enormous contribution to the Internet marketplace by reinforcing the simple truth about advertising that reaching an audience already predisposed to what you want to sell gets you considerably nearer your goal as a marketer. It has gone further by merchandising the fact that there is no limit to tapping audience predisposition online: there is a key word for everything, on demand. Paid search is good.

"Behind every key word, however, is a web site. Let me repeat that: behind every key word is a web site; in fact, thousands of them. People, like the daughter in your column, know this. People know that the Internet is bigger than a breadbox which is why, I believe, they have refused to allow themselves to be bustled through one doorway or another, as registrants, subscribers, respondents or, generally, advertising dupes. Audiences are not unwitting participants in the advertising process and they don't respond well to arms waving and cries of "Rouse! Rouse!"

"So, yes, Cory's right. Paid Search isn't going away but it's returning to its chair after a couple of very impressive struts around the floor. Who's next? Maybe no one. In which case, perhaps we can all get up now, walk over, and ask the customers - finally - to dance."

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