I've done quite a few different publishing online publishing ventures and have learned a lot, in bits and pieces, about the changing landscape for online ads... and how that interacts with the offline space. I'm starting to try to put it together so I can do a better job of predicting how different sorts of content will connect with advertisers.
I think there are some spaces (say, programming blogs, and I think also automotive) where there is too much content (maybe too many eyeballs) for too little advertising demand. In a case like that, you get a terrible eCPM.
There are some sites where Google can look at the text, understand what it's about, and serve relevant ads. I've seen other sites where Google looks at the text and gets no idea at all.
In both of those kinds of sites, I notice that blight tends to move in... you know, the "flat tummy" ads, etc. It used to be that you didn't see stuff like that in AdSense but there's plenty of it now: Google lets you opt-out of some of it, but not out of all of it.
I think "Brand" advertising is really disappearing everywhere.
Think of it this way: Coca-Cola has been spending a lot of advertising for a very long time. If Coke stopped spending on ads now, people wouldn't stop drinking Coke; maybe they'd drink a little less, but they wouldn't stop. I think stopping the ads would have more an effect on the sales channel (they'd think Coke is less serious and not stock it as prominently) than it would have on consumer behavior.
The same is true, to some extent, for automotive ads that are trying to build brands like 'Ford' and the 'Ford Mustang', although I'd imagine that Ford does need to educate consumers about new models, like the 'Ford Focus'.
Now, on the other hand, if you go to some city like London or Washington, D.C. you can buy this pass that gets you on a tourist bus and gets you into a bunch of attractions. These guys need to get in your face aggressively in the 2-3 days that you're in town, and maybe when you're planning you trip... Because otherwise you don't know that they exist, where they are, and you'll just end up doing something else.
These guys make their buses very visible and they stuff the lobbies with all the hotels in town with fliers and otherwise make very aggressive promotional efforts that are highly targeted. If they stopped doing this promotion, they might as well stop driving the bus, because the customers won't come.
In the automotive space, on the other hand, the dealers in your town are always going to have some promotions going on, so they've got a good reason to be getting in your face, because it's tied pretty closely too a transaction.
Anyway, what I'm getting at is that we can't say that "advertising" is a good business or a bad business to be in in 2010. However, some kinds of advertising are going to be really good and and others are going to be bad.
Let's have a talk about how we can find the good places and avoid the bad ones.