Yesterday's announcement of first-ever newsroom layoffs at the Oregonian included this statement:
The Oregonian, like all newspapers, has endured declining revenues the past few years, the result of the recession and the migration of advertising to the Internet.
That latter excuse, to be frank, is crap.
The Oregonian newsroom folks who were laid off - and those that have survived - deserve to know that OregonLive.com is running an online advertising operation that is so bad that there can only be one explanation: They're actually trying to earn less ad revenue.
According to their own metrics, they're producing some 23.7 million page views per month. That makes OregonLive.com one of the top 1000 non-porn websites in the world.
Now, I buy a lot of online advertising for political campaigns. Over the last few years, I've bought millions of ad impressions. And who am I targeting? Exactly the audience that OregonLive could provide - educated news consumers in Oregon.
But I've never bought a single ad impression on OregonLive.com. Why not?
Because they're overpriced and their system makes it impossible to run a modern online ad campaign.
Google is the king of online advertising. A vast majority of the ads you see online are delivered by Google's network (including the banner ad at the top of this page, the square ad above our comments, and the tall banner ad at the bottom of our third column.)
By contrast, the last time I checked, OregonLive was charging roughly TEN TIMES the average Google ad rate. Even more if you want to restrict your ads to certain sections of the site (like, say, the hard-news area.)
Of course, I'd gladly pay more for a better product. But OregonLive is actually worse.
- Google's system is entirely self-serve and online. OregonLive requires chatting up an ad rep and emailing in the ads.
- Google allows me to upload dozens of ad variations to display in rotation. OregonLive only allows one at a time.
- Google gives me live stats on impressions, clickthrus, and conversions (which tells me which ads actually generated signups or donations). OregonLive will tell you at the end of the run how many impressions my ads received.
- Google allows me to target my ads to just Portland, or Corvallis, or Bend. OregonLive displays all ads to every visitor.
- Google allows me to adjust on-the-fly, even at 2 a.m. (in my boxers in my basement, natch), if I notice that one ad is doing better than another. Without the data or the ability to upload ads, OregonLive just leaves me hoping I picked the right ad.
Meanwhile, I'm happily buying ads on NYTimes.com and showing them to Oregonians, watching the live metrics, rotating my creative, and having fun.
And here's why this should matter to folks who aren't Oregonian staffers: Because OregonLive's system is so bad, they rely almost entirely on ads from local advertisers (and giant deals run through the Advance.net home office.) If they were using Google's ad system, advertisers nationwide would be paying for ads narrowly targeted to OregonLive's educated and affluent readers -- and bringing out-of-state money into the Oregonian's coffers and boosting our local economy.
Sure, Google's average ad rates are one-tenth of OregonLive's. But would they get more than ten times the ad revenue? I'm quite confident of it. All the money in online advertising is in the "long tail" - small advertisers buying ads on keyword-targeted content pages.
And then, they wouldn't need those ad reps around anymore; just someone to cash Google's checks.