Web Ad Networks: Pooled Ad Programs, Brokers, and Banner Exchanges

By , March 24, 1997

I created this outline of “web advertising” issues in March 1997, for inclusion in the program materials for an industry conference where I was a featured speaker.  It is written primarily for an audience of advertisers (merchants) and people in the advertising industry.

Outline prepared 3/24/97
Copyright 1997 by Mark J. Welch

  1. The Problem: Reaching Beyond “Super Bowl” Web Sites. We all know that the bulk of advertising dollars on the internet go to a handful of “Super Bowl” web sites. However, web browsers surf around millions of web pages. If an advertiser wants to reach potential customers at the right moment, the advertiser must find a way to move beyond the “Super Bowl” web sites.One strategy is for the advertiser (or someone at an agency) to sit down at a computer and surf the ‘net, looking for web sites related to the advertiser’s products. But it can take many hours to identify just a handful of appropriate web sites — and then more time to enter into transactions with the webmasters of each site. Individual web sites and web pages might have very low traffic, so that payments to webmasters may be eclipsed by the transaction costs.

  2. One Solution: Ad Networks. An “ad network” or “pooled advertising company” allows one media buy to extend across a range of web sites run by different hosts, with the same ad appearing on dozens, hundreds, or perhaps thousands of different web sites. Companies either pay web sites lower rates (ranging from 10% to 80% of the “retail” price) or obtain ads by trading exposures (banner exchanges).
  3. What’s not an ad network? In addition to ad networks, there are advertising agencies, who represent ad buyers, and there are advertising representatives, who represent web sites. I don’t count an agency or broker as an “ad network” if they don’t provide an “ad server,” which is a centralized web site that manages, rotates, and displays advertisements.
  4. Benefits of Ad Networks:
    • The main benefit of ad networks is the reduction of transaction costs. A single transaction between the advertiser and network can place one ad on many web sites. A single transaction between the network and web site can allow many different ads to appear at the site.
    • The ad network also imposes a single technical standard for ad sizes and formats, which must be accepted by the participating advertisers and web sites. For advertisers, this eliminates the need to produce ads in several different formats. For web sites, this reduces the risk that an ad’s size or shape might disrupt the appearance of a web page. (The trend appears to favor the 468×60 size, but there is also a huge inventory of ads in the 400×40/440×40 size.)
    • The ad network also provides an intermediary who can track ad displays, click-throughs, and other data and, where appropriate, forward reports or data to the advertiser in a single, consolidated format. In theory, the intermediary is neutral and can provide an audit function; but in practice, the intermediary benefits from increased ad sales or allocation of impressions to more favorable categories or demographics, and thus a separate audit function may be needed to avoid overcounting.
    • By pooling a huge number of visitors, ad networks create the possibility of demographic targetting of web browsers. Thus, while an individual site might not sell a “demographic subset” of its ad inventory, an ad network can sell ads based on browser, OS, domain name or suffix, or other factors that can be determined from the image request. (Using this technique, Microsoft has recently run ad campaigns aimed solely at Macintosh and Windows 3.1 users, as it rolled out its IE browser for those platforms; the ad networks were free to sell the remaining inventory of ads to other vendors).
    • In addition, if the ad network “adds value” by categorizing individual web sites or pages, advertisers can target uses based on the subject of the web site (or based on demographic assumptions about the site’s content). Category-based targetting will be discussed in more detail later.
    • Variety of sites: if ad networks offer nothing else, they offer diversity and variety. While most ad networks impose some limits on the content of participating web sites, there are few restrictions on the content or quality of sites. Of course, this can also be a drawback.
    • Cost: Because ad networks represent a wide range of web sites, they generally set pricing at the low end of the spectrum — although some networks may impose substantial surcharges for demographic or subject-matter targeting. Some ad networks carry advertising based on “click-throughs” instead of adviews (impressions).
  5. Lying. I’m sure it comes as a shock to people in the advertising profession, but sometimes people lie.
    • When I first began looking at web advertising, I noticed that companies like the Commonwealth Network imposed a requirement that participants be at least 18 (the same rules apply for its “Riddler” games). But it turns out that a lot of teenage boys really want to participate, and so they lie about their ages so they can get money for ads and so they can win CDs and T-shirts from the Riddler game.
    • In my opinion, most internet demographic surveys are suspect for rather predictable reasons. Common sense should prevail: if a webmaster tells you that his “games hints and cheats” page draws people with an average age of 47 and average income of $69,000, you should be suspicious. Look at the subject of the page, and think about what people that page would attract, and never forget that a lot of people will lie if they think they will benefit from it.
  6. Cheating. Whenever money goes, thieves follow. When the Commonwealth Network first unveiled its system paying a fixed dollar amount for each “impression,” many webmasters (primarily teenage boys) immediately tried to figure out how to artificially inflate their impressions, through a wide range of techniques, some of which could be viewed as creative and others simply fraudulent. One technique to increase advertising impressions is to split a single web page into multiple pages, each of which displays an advertisement (the same one, or different ones). The effect of these tactics on a specific ad campaign or advertiser depends on the purpose and type of advertising campaign you are conducting. Another technique, for those with access to a series of IP addresses, is to write a program that loads each advertisement once per day from each IP address — which is simply a form of fraud.
  7. Brief Discussion of Several Key Players.
    • Note: There are dozens of companies in this field, and like anything on the internet, the players change constantly. I maintain a page on the internet at http://www.MarkWelch.com/bannerad.htm which provides over 150 links to companies and other resources. I have not tried to reproduce that list here. (You can “subscribe” to receive notice of updates to that page by completing the form at the end of that page.)
    • Commonwealth Network. This division of Interactive Imaginations (which also operates “The Riddler” game web site) signs up web sites by promising to pay web sites for every ad impression. During the summer of 1996, CN was plagued with “cheating,” as dozens (perhaps hundreds) of teenage boys devised clever ways to artificially inflate traffic. (I will not discuss methods of “cheating” nor methods to detect “cheating,” other than to point out that every ad network must devote considerable energy to detecting and deterring “cheating.”) In mid-1996, CN’s pay rate was a fixed three-quarters of a cent per impression ($.0075), but starting in mid-September, a more complex system was imposed; payments to web affiliates for February and March will apparrently average less than one-twentieth of a cent per unique impression. Advertisers pay for advertising based on categories and certain other demographic criteria. (At the time this outline was prepared, you could view a category-based directory of some 1,600 web pages in the Commonwealth Network, at http://adsales.riddler.com/common/cwn_index/index.htm.) In March, the Commonwealth Network said it planned to introduce a new advertising network featuring the same type of “full-page” advertisements used in its Riddler games.In the fall of 1996, many web sites abandoned the “Commonwealth Network” because of sudden payment changes and late payments. Many sites re-joined the Commonwealth Network in December 1996 and January 1997 because the company claimed to be selling 66% to 85% of its available advertising inventory. Then, in mid-March, the company admitted that its ad sales had actually plummetted, claiming it sold only 6% of available inventory in January, 0.5% in February, and about 1% during the first half of March. I think most of the company’s affiliates have now quit the network, and an attorney was planning to file a class-action lawsuit against the company in late March.Interactive Imaginations engages actively in barter transactons, in which it trades advertising impressions on its “Riddler” site and the Commonwealth Network for advertising on other sites, or in exchange for products or services being awarded as Riddler prizes.
    • Internet Banner Network (IBN – Savvy.Com). At the same time Commonwealth Network was changing its payment rules and reducing its pay rates, IBN began soliciting sites with promises of a fixed one-half-cent per impression. But IBN failed to sell any outside advertising during its first few months of operation, and many web sites complained that IBN failed to honor its payment promises (refusing to pay some sites and paying reduced rates to others). More recently, IBN’s parent company has gained notoriety for broadcasting “junk email.” I have heard dozens of negative comments, including a number of claims that I can’t repeat (in the absence of a court judgment favoring the claimants) but which lead me to strongly recommend against doing business with IBN or any of its affiliated companies.
    • Petry Network This is a division of the same company that resells TV advertising space. The company started with a misstep: their original proposed contract with affiliates was unconscionable, and when I criticized the contract and proposed payment system for web publishers, the company’s attorney threatened to sue me. When that didn’t work, the company completely rewrote the contract and payment system.Petry recognized that it needed to go shopping, so it bought its advertising technology from Imgis (which earlier had announced an advertising network of its own, whose affiliates have now merged into Petry’s network). Affiliates from Ad-Net were also merged into Petry’s network. (My understanding is that those two deals started with discussions at the Web Advertising ’96 show in New York.)The Imgis software which Petry uses offers two benefits over all its smaller competitors: subject-based targeting, and “smart” tracking and allocation of ad displays. Rather than adopting a single model for advertising, Petry accepts impression, click-through, and “direct response” advertisements, and dynamically seeks to place the best-paying ad on each page. In general, an impression-based ad will always win, but if a specific page is generating high click-through rate or substantial sales, another ad may be substituted to maximize revenues. (It is unclear to me how Petry is tracking performance for “direct response” advertising, since it promises to compensate each web site for its performance for all advertising.)Initially, Petry boasted that it had “oversold” its available inventory, but by March it was advising web publishers that there would be at least a 60-day delay before new sites could be added to the network.Petry has no fixed advertising rate schedule, which makes it difficult to evaluate and compare the company to its competitors. In addition, at the deadline for written materials, Petry was “too new” for any feedback about payments to its affiliates.
    • DoubleClick While DoubleClick maintains a very high profile as an “ad network,” the company represents only about 75 web sites, and generally won’t talk to web publishers whose traffic is less than 1 million impressions per month. DoubleClick’s sites include Dilbert, USA Today, Travelocity, and some excellent financial sites (DoubleClick claimed about 500 million adviews per month as of March). While there is some benefit in using a single transaction to buy ads across several DoubleClick sites, I don’t think that DoubleClick’s six dozen sites can provide the same synergy as ad networks representing hundreds or thousands of web sites.DoubleClick continually commands attention because of its remarkable targetting claims, some of which I find incredible (meaning I do not believe the claims are credible). Based on my conversations with DoubleClick, it is clear that they can only fulfill these promises for a small fraction of overall traffic. For example, DoubleClick claims the ability to target visitors by industry type, SIC code, ZIP code, or organization name/size/revenue — yet DoubleClick’s sites don’t require visitors to register (a required step to properly categorize more than a small fraction of visitors by SIC code, ZIP code, industry type, or organization size). Instead, DoubleClick’s targetting is limited to information available from IP addresses, which only provide vague geographic targetting and no industry or demographic targetting 95% of the time. (In general, targetting industries or SIC codes based on IP address will only allow reach large companies with their own IP addresses, leaving out all the small companies relying on internet access through local or national internet service providers.)Clearly, DoubleClick’s promises are what advertisers would like: every advertiser would like to be able to target based on the “pinpoint” content of a web page, and based on “pinpoint” demographic information about the visitor. Unfortunately, web visitors are keenly sensitive to privacy issues, and are reluctant to share detailed information (and are often dishonest when they do complete registration forms). There is also widespread criticism of any methods for “tracking” web visitors from one site to another, on the grounds that this may be perceived as an invasion of privacy.Of course, some of DoubleClick’s affiliated web sites are giants themselves, and the ability to target a handful of narrow content areas within each of several large web sites is an important capability for advertisers. DoubleClick has announced “Editorial Targetting,” which would give advertisers the ability to target pages based on the actual keyword content of each web page, but that technology is not actually available.Note: For all its claims, I do not believe that DoubleClick currently offers, within its current ad network, any targetting capabilities that other ad networks could not provide equally well (although its site quality and sheer overall traffic volume are clearly attractive). (DoubleClick does claim to have developed a proprietary database of IP addresses to improve targetting capabilities.)
    • Burst Media: This is a relatively small agency that essentially represents a wide variety of web sites, providing “proposals” to large advertisers. Burst does not appear to categorize sites, but creates a unique list of member sites to include in proposals to each advertiser. The company’s focus is on selling a web page to a single advertiser on a weekly basis; while it claims to have the capability to sell multiple ads based on visitor-targetting criteria, it appears that there is never more than one ad rotating at a site at a given time.While Burst has proven itself able to sell advertising for sites, it appears to sell less than a quarter of its available inventory, and it appears limited to selling to large vendors on a “one-on-one” basis. As the advertising industry adapts, I expect that this personalized selling will become less important for web advertising.
    • NarrowCast Media. This company offers several structures. It can act as a broker, representing individual sites in ad sales; or it can operate as a “banner exchange,” trading ad displays for ad displays; or in some situations it will agree to “purchase” all available ad impressions at three-quarters of a cent per impression, if a site has a desirable subject or demographic. I have not received any positive feedback from affiliates regarding payment or performance of this network, and my general impression is that it is smaller and less professional than many of its competitors.
    • Link Exchange. This is perhaps the oldest and largest of the “banner exchange” companies. (A “banner exchange” does not pay participating web sites. Instead, each time a web site displays an ad, the site receives a credit that can be used toward advertising for the site; sometimes credits from several sites can be pooled or traded to other sites.) LE was the first and most successful banner exchange program, and it proudly boasted in March 1997 that an audit by Nielsen I/PRO confirmed nearly 28 million adviews spread over more than 100,000 web sites during the last week of February. The company plans to implement category-based targetting, and already allows small advertisers to place advertising orders over the internet (in my opinion, reducing transaction costs is essential for small ad buys, which can be quite profitable — look at the money spent on local newspaper, TV and radio ads).Not surprisingly, LinkExchange’s success has been copied by dozens of smaller companies. Some companies offer better exchange rates (3:2, 5:3, or 4:3 instead of LE’s standard 2:1 exchange rate), but most of these companies are shut down within a few weeks or months because their ISPs were unable to handle the immense traffic generated, and the companies don’t know how to sell advertising to pay for the bandwidth they need.Several “imitator” companies have pursued targetted advertising opportuntities. At least a dozen geography-based banner exchanges are already operating, mostly for European countries. Several subject-oriented banner exchanges are also in operation, including separate networks aimed at sites whose content is related to games, Macintosh, Amiga, conservative politics, or Christian themes. One company, HyperBanner, already operates six separate banner exchanges (music, martial arts, UK, Holland, Israel, and New Zealand) and plans to add “sports” and “software” banner exchange networks soon.I believe that separate “theme-based” and geographic-based banner exchange networks will begin to disappear (or adapt) as general banner exchange networks develop comprehensive subject-based targetting capabilities.Pricing: According to a March 1 rate card, LinkExchange’s rates range from about 1 cent per impression for untargetted ads, to about 2 cents per impression for targetted ads (using about 50 categories).
    • Adult Ad Programs: (See list at http://www.alexas.com/advert/). At least three dozen “adult” web sites offered to reward web sites for advertising, based on click-throughs, with pricing ranging from one to two cents per click-through. Some other companies advertise in exchange for commissions on sales of subscription services. Several programs have been suspended or abandoned due to widespread “cheating.” I generally assume that “adult” ad networks are unsuitable for use by other advertisers.
    • BannerMedia / BannerLink. They have very detailed categories for web pages. As of March, the company represented about 30 sites, and claimed traffic of 12 million impressions per month; they claim to track visitors throughout the network and to collect demographic data permitting narrow targetting.
  8. Which Ad Network is Best? I don’t know. “The only constant is change.” I would suggest testing each ad network, with small ad placements, before devoting a large ad budget. Make sure you have tools in place to measure response. (Warning: many ad networks will “over-deliver” impressions, so make sure you can measure impressions, click-throughs, and post-click-through activities.)
  9. Comparing Web Site Banner Advertising Models.
    • The Standard Advertising Model. In the traditional view advertisers have toward publishing, the publication’s job is to deliver readers to the advertisers. If I publish a magazine about fishing, I will usually charge advertisers a rate based on the number of people who read the magazine. We might argue about how many people read each copy, but essentially I will price advertising based on the number of readers times a price that advertisers are willing to pay for each reader. (Maybe I will command a premium if I can persuade advertisers that my magazine’s readers spend more money on fishing equipment than other people, or if I can persuade advertisers that my magazine is read by the purchasing directors of large companies that buy fishing equipment.) Likewise, advertisers pay for radio and TV advertising based on the number of listeners or viewers. (In print media, the advertiser generally pays for a guaranteed minimum number of readers, and can demand a rebate if fewer copies are sold or distributed. In TV and radio advertising, most advertisers must simply pay for an estimated number of viewers or readers.) In standard advertising, an advertiser pays the same amount (perhaps subject to volume discounts) for each advertising exposure, and it is generally desirable to present the same advertisement to the same person multiple times.
    • An Alternative Advertising Model. Sometimes, advertisers are reluctant to pay for advertising, and some publishers will agree to provide advertising in exchange for a percentage of the revenue generated. This removes the element of risk from the advertiser, and creates the potential for greater return for the advertiser.
    • Responsibility for Advertising Content. In the “Standard” advertising model, the advertiser has sole responsibility for advertising content; the publisher retains only a veto power to refuse offensive or objectionable advertisements. When the advertiser and publisher team up, sharing revenues, the publisher’s staff may impose more conditions on the advertisement, or control on its content. In some cases the publisher will actually design and produce the ad, and sometimes will even process orders and inquiries.
    • Moving These Models to the Online World. The internet equivalent of the “standard” advertising model on the internet is the “impression” model, whereby advertisers agree to pay the web site a fixed amount for each time the web page is viewed by an internet user. A few sites may charge a fixed price for a given time period, such as $1,000 per week, but most advertisers demand statistics so that they can evaluate that cost per thousand impressions.Likewise, some web sites agree to run advertisements in exchange for a percentage of sales generated by the advertisement. For example, several online booksellers and music vendors have programs whereby a webmaster can display an advertisement, and then users who click on the ad are tracked (via “cookies”) so that if an order is placed, that order is credited to the originated web site, which receives a commission.
    • Unique features of online advertising: In print and broadcast media, the advertiser must buy the entire run — every viewer or every reader. (Some magazines can sell regional advertising, and local TV stations and cable companies can sell narrower groups of viewers.) But in the online world, an advertiser can buy different slices: if a site has 25,000 visitors per month, one advertiser could buy 15,000 impressions, another could buy 8,000, and a third could buy 2,000.
    • Content and Editorial Integrity. In traditional media, the editorial and advertising departments are distinct, and advertisers are not permitted to buy advertising directly related to a specific article (although many publications charge a premium for placement near specific columnists or in a “theme” section of a magazine, and some publications ignore journalistic standards and blur the line between editorial and advertising). But on the internet, there is no fine line between editorial content and advertising: some webmasters intermix paid advertisements and unpaid editorial freely, without any visual distinction.
  10. Broad Advertising. If you are Microsoft, and you’re seeking to promote your new version of Internet Explorer, you are effectively targetting the entire internet population. Your advertising goal is to reach every internet user, multiple times. Fortunately, an ad server can detect what web browser the user is operating, and can be programmed to only display your ad when the user is not already a customer. An ad server can also display your ad only to customers of a specific ISP — for example, a different ad could be displayed to America Online, Netcom, and CompuServe subscribers. Certain information cannot be gleaned without individual user registration — for example, it’s usually not possible to determinethe occupation, age or sex of a visitor.
  11. Targetted Advertising. But most of us are not Microsoft, and most advertisers don’t want their ad displayed on a wide range of web sites. Instead, most advertisers want to target their advertising to a specific audience of potential customers.In traditional media, specific groups of consumers can be targetted by advertising in “theme” publications or programs. Thus, if I sell fishing poles, I will buy advertisements in fishing magazines and on TV programs about fishing; I might also place advertisements in more general “outdoor” and “sporting” media. In general, as a publication’s demographics narrow, its advertising prices rise, so that on a cost-per-thousand basis, it should cost more to advertise in “Northwestern Pennsylvania Fishing News” than in “Sports Illustrated.” The advertiser should not mind, since the advertiser should measure advertising cost based on the cost per target-consumer reached.
    • What the Internet Offers. On the internet, every page can present a unique advertising opportunity. For example, suppose I have a fishing site on the web, and my web site attracts 10,000 visitors per month. On average, each visitor views my home page twice per month, and on average, each visitor views four different web pages (out of 100) that are posted at my site. If you sell fishing equipment, you might be happy to buy an advertisement on my page — but if you sell special fishing equipment desirable only to bass fishing, you might not want to buy an ad on my site’s “home page.” Instead, you might want to advertise only on pages related to bass fishing — and you might even want to use a different ad on each page. For example, if I create a web page [article] about how the color of the lure affects bass, you might run an ad about lures, while an article about techniques to bring in bass after they’re hooked might be more appropriate for an ad for fishing poles or line.
    • A Great Idea, but . . . . If you sell fishing equipment, you should be drooling for the opportunity to target advertising so narrowly. Unfortunately, there is a very, very big problem: the transaction cost. It may take you several hours to track down fifty quality web sites about fishing, more time to send email to each webmaster asking for advertising information. Then you spend more time designing unique ads for each site. By the time you’re done, you’ve spent many hours of effort, all to target just a few tens of thousands of potential customers. It’s just not worth it.
    • Pooled Advertising Programs. A “pooled” advertising vendor displays ads on thousands of unique web sites, and assigns each web site to one or more categories. Most of these companies, like the Commonwealth Network and Burst, require each web page to be separately registered, so that each web page is assigned unique categories. Some vendors, like LinkExchange, Internet Banner Network, and Webvertizing, assign a single category to an entire web site, providing much less precise targetting.
  12. Picking Categories. Everything comes down to demographics, which may mean that everything comes down to the categories available from a particular vendor. For example, if you are seeking to place advertising for fishing equipment, you need to find a vendor that can deliver “fishing” web sites, not a vendor that has a category for “sports” or “outdoor activities.” The latter two categories might be acceptable for a nationwide chain of sporting goods stores, but not for a company that just sells fishing gear.
    • NO COMPANY HAS GOOD CATEGORIES. In my opinion, none of the “pooled” advertising companies offers categories that will be useful to the majority of advertisers. I think that development of meaningful categories and sub-categories is the single biggest obstacle to effective “pooled” advertising placement.
    • Price Should Be No Object. Currently, price is a huge obstacle to web advertising programs, because advertisers are reluctant to pay for very broad advertising — across the entire world. Even companies that regularly buy national prime-time TV time can target their advertising based on the average age and income levels of the viewers. (For example, by advertising on “Murder, She Wrote” or “Baywatch.”) If it is possible to narrowly target web visitors, advertisers should be not just willing, but glad to pay a much higher “cost per thousand” for those visitors.
    • Let’s Use Me As An Example. I am an estate planning attorney in Pleasanton, California. I have created a wonderful web site about California estate planning, probate, and trust law. I would like to attract people to my web site, and of course ultimately I want people to hire me to represent them in their estate planning matters, or in probate administration proceedings.
      • Geography. I am admitted to practice law only in California, and generally my clients live or work within about 15 miles from Pleasanton, California. There are probably about 1 million people in my geographic target area.
      • Wealth. While everyone should have a will, poor people and those with modest incomes don’t hire me. Most of my clients have a net worth of $250,000 or more (per married couple), and estate tax planning generally is important only for clients with a net worth over $600,000.
      • Age. Young people do not do estate planning. Roughly 85% of my clients are over age 40, and 60% over age 50.
      • Sex. In a married couple, it is the wife who most often provides the pressure to do estate planning, and more often than not she also selects the attorney.
      • Sexual Orientation. Gay couples have more need for estate planning because “intestate succession” rarely matches their goals.
      • Triggering Events & Behaviors. Most clients seek out legal assistance for estate planning because of common triggering events:
        • Birth of second child (rare)
        • 3-5 years after second marriage (“blended family”)
        • Yougest child “leaves the nest”
        • Pre-Retirement (age 57-62)
        • Retirement
        • Death of Friend or Relative (Not Spouse)
        • Death of Spouse (update plan 1-2 years later)

        Of course, the other aspect of my practice — estate administration (probate or trust administration) — arises when someone dies.

  13. Okay, let’s try to design an internet advertising program for me, based on the information above.
    • We have some problems right off the bat: there is no way to target directly geographically or based on age, family status, or based on the triggering events specified. (Indeed, even designing a direct mail campaign would be difficult.) Certainly, we can provide some geographic targetting, based on the IP address of the visitor (that will probably result in acceptable accuracy for 60% to 80% of visitors, if I accept about a 30 to 40 mile radius).
    • But we could easily identify a list of possible web-site subjects that would be relevant and would target a relatively high percentage of people in my target audience: seniors, retirement, retirement planning, financial planning and investment, death, grief, obituaries, life insurance, investments, rental property management.
    • Unfortunately, if I wanted to place an advertising buy with most pooled advertising networks, I couldn’t get categories even vaguely related to these subjects.
    • Even if the categories I want were available, I would want some assurance that the sites that checked that category were truly relevant. Indeed, I would almost certainly want to screen all the pages where my ad would appear, in advance, to insure that the ad would not appear on sites I found offensive or inappropriate for my ad. (Note that a web page that is acceptable one day might become unacceptable the next, if the content is changed.)
    • An Idea: It looks like there might not be any way to promote my web site only to the people I want to reach. Is there an alternative? Sure: I could team up with web-savvy estate-planning attorneys in other states and create a “bridge” estate planning page. Our advertisement could address “Estate planning, wills & probate” and then once people clicked on the ad, they would pass to the “bridge” page, which would allow them to designate their state, to be taken to the relevant attorney’s web site. (Note: There are some restrictions on attorney marketing and advertising in many states, and the notion of combining advertisements from several attorneys in several states does raise serious ethical and professional liability concerns.)
  14. We Need Good Categories! Look at where all the money is in the internet today: search engines (AltaVista, Excite, Lycos) and a web index (Yahoo). And look at what those companies can do for you: they will sell you narrow targetted advertising. If you want, you can buy an ad that will be displayed whenever someone searches for the word “fishing” or “bass fishing” (but would you want “fish”?). Or the online music store could have one of its ads displayed every time someone searched for a particular music artist’s name — perhaps even linked directly to a list of titles from that artist. What I think “web advertising” needs is an effective system for categorizing web sites that accept advertising — using categories and sub-categories that are useful to advertisers. I think that Petry and Banner Media have done an impressive job of developing more comprehensive categories — though not yet adequate. I would like to see use of pre-existing category systems — SRDS categories, SIC codes, or some similar system. It’s important to keep in mind that a single web site might cover several categories, and perhaps it would be helpful to assign revelance factors for each category (e.g. “Fuzzy logic”). In addition, each page available for advertising must be separately categorized. This can be extremely labor-intensive for webmasters and ad program administrators.
  15. Enforcing Categories. Unfortunately, some webmasters have acted irresponsibly and unprofessionally in the past. I suspect that no system for categorizing web sites will be effective unless the system is applied consistently and professionally by disinterested persons. The natural tendency of a webmaster seeking to maximize ad sales is to be over-inclusive and generous in describing a page. Reviewing web pages and categorizing them can be extremely time-consuming, especially for pages that are updated often. Unfortunately, there is a natural trade-off: a huge ad network like Link Exchange (which boasted 2 million ad displays daily in late November) cannot possibly keep up with thousands of different web sites with tens of thousands of unique web pages; while advertising brokers must reject small web sites that don’t generate enough revenue to cover the categorization and monitoring costs.
    • One important question for advertisers to ask is who does the classifying. If web sites know that “financial” sites command a premium, then every webmaster will seek to classify his “game cheats” page as a financial site. But if the ad network must allocate staff to monitor each page in the network, the transaction cost will skyrocket.
    • I expect that this conflict will be resolved by creating two or three classes of categorized sites: “self-classified” (with the web publisher assigning categories), “reviewed” (with the ad network assigning staff to review and confirm the apparent accuracy of categories for moderate-traffic pages), and “confirmed” (with extra review and tracking to confirm that the page performs appropriately in its assigned category).
    • Note that some ad networks — for example, Petry and SmartClicks — keep track of the click-through rate for each ad in each category, and can dynamically shift ads into categories which generate higher click-through rates. This is important, because ad sales staff and ad buyers may not correctly pick the “best” categories for each advertisement. Indeed, during two weeks of beta-testing on SmartClicks in March, I learned that one of my banner ads performed very well in two categories I would never have predicted (but after thinking about it, the performance made sense). This technology can also be used by the advertiser or network to evaluate whether a specific site’s performance is unlike other sites in the category (suggesting that the site might be mis-classified).
  16. Which Advertising Models Are Fair or Unfair?
    • When the Internet Banner Network (IBN) first opened its doors, it sent email to many webmasters who were participating in LinkExchange and the Commonwealth Network (CN). IBN’s major claim was that it would pay a half-cent for every advertising impression, without discounting repeat impressions from the same user. Later, IBN discovered that many web sites generated very low “click-through” rates to its only advertised site, and IBN refused to pay for many of the ad impressions. IBN’s actions were unfair because it promised to pay according to one model (raw impressions), and then changed the rules to a different model (raw impressions plus a minimum click-through ratio). And the low-click-through ratio was almost certainly due to the fact that IBN carried only a single advertisement (for one of its own affiliated web sites), rather than rotating multiple advertisements.
    • Any advertising model that doesn’t pay based on “impressions” risks penalizing the web site for a poorly-designed web advertisement. Also, if a web site has a narrow focus and an advertisement for an unrelated, narrow-focus site is displayed, it’s not the site’s fault that no one is interested in the advertisement.
    • Also, some broad-interest advertisements can have a good effect even without the user “clicking through.” For example, during the Olympics, the Commonwealth Network ran advertisements for the NBC coverage of the Olympics, with the ad linked to the NBC Olympic web site. But one evening, I loaded my web browser and saw the advertisement, and my immediate response was to turn off the computer and go turn on the TV to watch the Olympics. I exhibited “perfect” reactive behavior, yet it’s impossible for NBC to measure it, since I didn’t click on the ad. Likewise, when ads for Snapple or Toyota are displayed, I may not click on the ad, yet it registers in my conscious or sub-conscious mind, like any other mass-media advertising.
    • But it’s also unrealistic to expect most advertisers to continue paying for advertising impressions that don’t “pay off.” Measuring response to web advertising is sometimes easier than in other media: you can measure how often people “click-through” to the advertiser’s site, and sites that sell products online can track the user’s behavior at the site (including subsequent visits by the same visitor). If no one clicks through to an online music store, or if no one who clicks through actually places orders, then the advertiser needs to re-assess the strategy.
    • Early in the history of the Web, there was a banner advertisement that read simply “Shop Naked.” This provocative ad probably drew a lot of click-throughs, but when users found that the linked site was just an online shopping mall, they went away. The ad “suceeded” in generating traffic, but “failed” to generate sales.
    • I happen to believe that a “click-through” advertising model can be fair, if properly compensated and if advertising placement is targetted to the subject of the site. One company, eAds, allows webmasters to place specific ads on pages that are directly relevant, although eAds provides no way for webmasters to evaluate the effectiveness (or click-through ratios) of individual ads. The drawback of this approach is that it removes the advertiser’s control over the amount of advertising expense, and exposes the advertiser to artificial attempts to inflate the click-throughs.
    • Most “click-through” models pay web sites only 1 or 2 cents per click-through, and overall click-through rates are in the range of 33:1 (3%) to 200:1 (0.5%), so that web sites make only a tiny fraction of a cent for each ad “impression.” Even at 10 cents per click-through, a site with a 1% click-through rate earns only 0.1 cents per impression, which in many cases does not even pay for the webmaster’s overhead.
    • A “mixed” model, like that proposed by Banner Media (BannerLink) may be more practical: providing some payment for every impression, plus an additional payment based on click-throughs. Under this model, both the advertiser and the web site have incentives to improve the performance of the ad.
    • Finally, a model that pays commissions based on actual sales of products could be appropriate for select web sites, and if properly structured, such a model could actually improve the usefulness of the web site for visitors. For example, I have a web page called Michael W. Smith Web Links, which provides links to web sites related to this Christian music artist. At the end of the page are links directly to several online music stores, including links that go directly to titles offered by that vendor. Those linked sites provide information that’s not available elsewhere on the web (pictures of album covers, lists of songs on each album) as well as providing an immediate way to order products. I don’t get commissions for those links, but if an online music vendor wanted to pay me, I’d eliminate the competitor’s links. (Wow — as a journalist, I should be disgusted that I’m willing to sell out my “editorial integrity” for a few bucks.)
    • The “commission” model may be inappropriate for most web sites. For example, I have a resource page called Caller ID Links, which identifies a wide variety of resources related to Caller ID, including FAQs (frequently-asked questions), technical information, and links to many products, including telephones, computer software and hardware, and so on. One vendor of Caller ID products agreed to sponsor the page, and to my relief, they didn’t ask me to provide any special “editorial” treatment for their products. Since the entire purpose of the page is to provide a comprehensive list of “Caller ID Links,” I would be unwilling to remove any links to products from competitors of my sponsor.
  17. Which Model Works Best? As with everything in life, “it depends.” In some cases, the only viable advertising model may be “impressions,” since that is the predominant advertising model today, and it is the model preferred by publishers. You can buy millions of impressions per day under this model, if you are willing to pay for them. However, there has recently been a substantial increase in the amount of space available on a “click-through” basis, and this model is probably less expensive in 90% of situations. Finally, the “commission” model makes sense only for vendors who provide online transaction processing, who also have the technical resources to track every customer’s origin from first visit through order.
  18. Pricing. Although I generally refer to banner ad prices based on a “per impression” basis, the industry likes to refer to “cost per thousand” impressions (CPM). For example, in November 1996, the Commonweath Network quoted rates of $15 to $21 per thousand impressions, plus four different 10% premiums for demographics. LinkExchange adopted a similar pricing schedule in March 1997. Many other ad networks quote rates of $20 to $70 CPM. (The Commonwealth pays participating web sites a maximum of $7.50 per thousand impressions.)It is difficult to compare a “banner ad” impression to other advertising media. The “medium” of a banner ad is incredibly limiting when compared to the “bandwidth” available in traditional print or broadcast media; however, the banner ad provides an immediate response vehicle.I believe that untargetted web site “banner advertising” today is grossly overpriced, considering the current limitations of the medium. I believe that the “correct” value of web site banner advertising for broad exposures (e.g. unlimited across-the-network ad buys) should not be measured in pennies per impression, but in mils (e.g. one-tenth of cent) per impression. Thus, I believe that most ad networks will eventually need to survive at one-tenth their current rates for “saturation” advertising. However, I also believe that higher premiums can be charged for subject-matter and demographic targetting. Thus, rather than adding 10% or even 100% for a subject focus, the premium could structured exponentially (e.g. base rate of 0.2 cents per impression, subject focus 1 cents per impression, two-subject focus 5 cents per impression).
  19. Ad Flipping: A number of web sites have sought to enhance revenues by “flipping” multiple banner advertisements on a single page. Thus, while the visitor remains at a single page, a new banner ad is displayed ever 60 seconds or so. Obviously, this reduces the value of each impression to the advertiser. There are no studies of the effectiveness of “ad flipping.” In my opinion, ad “flipping” is a huge waste and no advertiser should tolerate it for “impression” based advertising. However, “ad flipping” could be a viable technique for “click-through” or “commission” advertising (if the advertiser or web site is willing to allow the huge increase in bandwidth caused by the loading of multiple banners instead of just one).
  20. Non-graphical pooled advertising One technical limitation of most current “pooled advertising networks” is the fact that only the banner image is rotated. I believe that a mechanism is required to also rotate the text portion of an advertisement (the tag line below the ad, and/or the “alt” tag displayed when images are disabled). It would also be preferable to use font and color codes to display “text” banners, instead of wasting bandwidth by storing the same information in a graphical banner.

Advertising Categories Available as of March 1997

Here are some examples of the categories used by some ad networks to designate the subject of a web site or page.

  • Wide Web Media requires webmasters to choose no more than five of the following categories, and to assign percentages for each selected category (with the total being 100%):

    Adult, Arts, Business, Careers, Computers and Communications, Education, Entertainment, Government, Health and Medicine, Internet, Investing, Kids Stuff, Movies, Music, News and Politics, Recreation, Reference, Science and Technology, Shopping, Society, Sports, Travel, Weather, General Interest, Other.

    Wide Web Media also requires that web sites assign “industry category” percentages (also adding to 100%), as follows:

    Information Technology, Marketing/Advertising, Retail, Medical, Legal, Business Executive, Science/Engineering, Education, Manufacturing/Construction, Mining, Accounting, Film/Arts/Media/Design.

  • NarrowCast Media offers the following categories (the webmaster can choose any number):

    Advertising, Arts, Automotive, Books, Business, Business Magazine, Business Reference Financial, Business Software, Business Travelers, ca North Bay, Classifieds, Comedy, Computer, Computer Internet, Computer Mac, Computer PC, Consultants, Corporate Accounting Managers, Corporate Is Managers, Corporate Sales Teams, Directory, Education, Education Children, Education Software, Entertainment, Entertainment Acting, Entertainment Celebrity Women, Entertainment Industry, Entrepreneur, Fitness, Food, Gambling, General, Government, Government Technology, Hawaii, Hawaii Culture, Hawaii Religion, Health, Health and Wellness, Hobbies, Home, Internet Contests, Internet Databasing, Internet Gaiming Role-playing Youth, Internet Reference, Jobs Recruiting High Tech, Legal, Lottery Canadian, Magazines, Magazines Ezines, Mail Order, Manufacturing, Medical, Medical Professionals, Medicine, Movies, Music, Painting, Performing Arts, Politics, Printing Equipment, Recreation and Sports, Religion, Retail, Sculpture, Search Engines, Social Dating Service, Software Development, Software Games, Software Graphical Design, Software Multimedia, Sports Gambling, Sports Outdoors, Sports Professional, Sports Sailing, Sports Snowmobiling, Sports Winter, Swim Suits Women’s, Telecommunications, Television, Toys Children, Travel, Videogames, Web Development, Web Hosting, Weddings, Weddings Brides, Weddings Grooms, Writing

  • Link Exchange allows sites to designate up to three of the following sub-categories for their entire web site:

    • Arts (Graphic Arts, Performing Arts, Writing, Other)
    • Business (Companies, Entrepreneurs, Products/Services, Other)
    • Computers (Macintosh, Unix, Windows/DOS, Other)
    • Culture & Society (Cultural, Regional, Religion, Other)
    • Education (Adult, Kids, Other)
    • Entertainment (Movies, Music, Publications, Television, Other)
    • Health (Fitness, Food, Medicine, Other)
    • Hobbies (Automotive, Aviation, Genealogy, Other)
    • Internet (E-zines, Reference, Search Tools, Other)
    • Miscellaneous (Useful, Useless, Other)
    • People (Celebrities, Personal, Other)
    • Politics (Left, Middle, Right, Other)
    • Recreation(Games, Sports, Video Games, Other)
  • The Commonwealth Network allows webmasters to assign up to three of these sub-categories per web page:

    • Sports (Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer, Hockey, Golf, Tennis, Magazines, Statistics, Trivia, Memorabelia, Other)
    • Computer (Hardware, Software, Internet/WWW, Technical, Other)
    • Games (Computer, Arcade, Board, Educational, Children’s, Other)
    • Movies (New Releases, Drama, Action/Adventure, Reviews, Comedy, Educational, Children’s, Other)
    • Television (Soaps, Reviews, Prime Time, Talk Shows, Children’s, Other)
    • Music (Rock, Classical, Country, Jazz, Blues, Opera, Grunge, Techno/Ambient, Progressive, Magazines, What’s Hot/What’s Not, Other)
    • Books (Self Help, Educational, Fiction, Sci-Fi, Romance, Reviews, Magazines & E-Zines, General)
    • Other Categories (News, Travel, Leisure, Clubs & Organizations, Reference, Sci-Fi, Science, Lists & Links, People, Education, Business, Random, Creators, Other)
  • BannerMedia / BannerLink offered the following categories, from which a webmaster can choose any number:

    • Art
      • Fine Arts (Painting, Architecture, Dance, Theater, Sculpture, Galleries, Reviews)
      • Music (Catalogs, Bands, Record Labels, Stores and shopping, Pop, Alternative, Independent, Hip-Hop and R & B, Classical, New Age, Reggae and World Beat, Electronic and Techno, Christian)
      • Fashion (High Fashion, Formalwear, Casual)
      • Writing (Literature, Non-fiction, History, Poetry)
      • Media (Magazines and Zines, Stories and Columns, Graphic Design, Multimedia, Infotainment)
    • Business
      • Legal (Wills, Law Offices)
      • Financial (Stock Market Services, Tax Services, Insurance Services, Financial Advice, Legal financial assistance, Realty and Real Estate)
      • Computer (Internet Service Providers, Web Presence Providers, Personal Computers, Business/Production Software, Games Software, Network Equipment)
      • Consumer goods (Sporting Goods, Cars, Shopping Malls, On-line product sales)
      • Industrial (Manufacturing, Shipping, Chemical, Food Manufacturers, Conglomerates)
      • Scientific and High Tech (Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, Medical, Chemical, Electronics, Space)
    • Military and Paramilitary
    • Entertainment
      • Genres (Science Fiction, Comedy, Historical, Drama, Romance, Horror, Adventure)
      • Television (Network Companies, Channels and Shows, Cable and Phone companies, Ratings Services, TV Schedules)
      • Movies (Movie Trailers, Production Houses, “Art” Movies, “Mainstream” Movies)
      • Computer Entertainment (Games)
      • Gambling (Lotteries)
      • Adult Entertainment
      • Paranormal (Aliens, The Occult, Strange Organizations, Other Oddities)
    • Religion
      • Christianity (Catholic, Luthern, Episcopal, American Babtist, Southern Babtist, Evangelist, United Church of Christ, Interdenominational)
      • Islam (Shia, Suni)
      • Judaeism (Orthodox, Reformed
      • Eastern et al (Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Zen, Daoism, Hindu)
      • Others (Unitarian Universalist, SubGenius, Universal Life, Obscure Miscellaneous Cults)
    • Leisure
      • Sports (Scoreboards, Recreational Activities, Outdoor/Outback Sports, Boating, Team Sports)
      • Travel (Travel Tickets and Arrangement, Tourist Information)
    • Education and Information
      • Computer Resources (Web Presence Providers, Web Search Engines, News Archives)
      • Information Resources (Libraries, Information Archives
      • Government Information, Federal Department Sites, State level sites)
      • Medical Information (Alternative Medicine, Holistic Care, Nonprofit Medical Info, Cancer, Aids, Drug use, Vaccinations, Fitness)
    • Political
      • Parties (Democratic, Republican, Reform, Green, Libertarian, Peace and Freedom, Natural Law, American Independent)
      • Political Alignment (Fiscally conservative & socially conservative, Fiscally conservative & socially liberal, Fiscally liberal & socially conservative, Fiscally liberal & socially liberal)
      • Popular Issue Endorsements (The National Budget, Abortion, Religious Values, Free Speech, Isolationism and Nationalism, Political Humor)
  • The Petry Network requires that each URL be assigned one sub-category from the following list:

    • General
    • Art (All, Art History, Artists, Arts Therapy, Children, Companies, Countries and Cultures, Design Arts, Education, Events, Forums, Humanities, Institutes, Libraries, Magazines, Museums and Galleries, Organizations, Performing Arts, Pictures, Publications, Real-Time Chat, Television Shows, Thematic, Tour Operators, Visual Arts)
    • Business (All, Business Schools, Classifieds, Companies, Consortia, Consumer Economy, Conventions and Conferences, Courses, Economics, Education, Electronic Commerce, Employment, History, Intellectual Property, International Economy, Labor, Magazines, Management Information Systems, Marketing, Markets and Investments, Miscellaneous, News, Organizations, Products and Services, Real Estate, Small Business Information, Taxes, Technology Policy, Trade, Transportation, Usenet)
    • Computers (All, Art, Communications and Networking, Companies, Computer Science, Contests, Conventions and Conferences, Cyberculture, Desktop Publishing, Games, Graphics, Hardware, History, Humor, Information and Documentation, Internet, Magazines, Mobile Computing, Multimedia, Music, Operating Systems, Organizations, Personal Computers, Programming Languages, Security and Encryption, Semiconductors, Software, Standards, Supercomputing and Parallel Computing Systems, Telecommunications, Training, User Groups, World Wide Web)
    • Education (All, Academic Competitions, Adult and Continuing Education, Art, Career and Vocational, Companies, Conferences, Distance Learning, Educational Standardsand Testing, Educational Theory and Methods, Financial Aid, Government Agencies, Guidance, Higher Education, Institutes, Instructional Technology, Journals, Languages, Lectures, Literacy, Magazines, Math and Science Education, Music, News, Online Forums, Organizations, Products, Programs, Resources, Special Education, Teaching)
    • Entertainment (All, Amusement/Theme Parks, Audio/Visual Equipment, Books, Comics and Animation, Contests, Cool Links, Drinks and Drinking, Events, Food and Eating, Hard to Believe, Humor, Internet, Magazines, Miscellaneous, Movies and Films, Multimedia, Music, News, Organizations, Paranormal Phenomena, People, Radio, Real-Time Chat, Reviews, Science Fiction, Horror, Television, Theater, Trivia, Useless Pages)
    • Government (All, Agencies, Citizenship, Conventions and Conferences, Countries, Documents, Embassies and Consulates, Executive Branch, Federal Employees, Institutes, Intelligence, International Organizations, Judicial Branch, Law, Legislative Branch, Military, News, Politics, Real-Time Chat, Reengineering, Research Labs, Student Government, Technology Policy, U.S. Budget, U.S. States)
    • Health (All, Alternative Medicine, Career and Employment, Children’s Health, Companies, Conferences, Death and Dying, Dentistry, Disabilities, Diseases and Conditions, Education, Emergency Services, Environmental Health, Fitness, General Health, Geriatrics and Aging, Health Administration, Health Care, Health Sciences, Hospitals, Institutes, Journals, Law, Magazines, Medicine, Men’s Health, Mental Health, Nursing, Nutrition, Organizations, Pharmacology, Public Health and Safety, Public Interest Groups, Radio Programs, Real-Time Chat, Reproductive Health, Sexuality, Travel, Weight Issues, Women’s Health, Workplace)
    • Internet (All, Business and Economics, Chat, Commercial Services, Commercial Software, Communications and Networking, Conferences and Events, Connectivity, Directory Services, Domain Registration, Education, Electronic Mail, Entertainment, FTP Sites, Gopher, History, Indices to Web Documents, Information and Documentation, Internet Fax Server, Internet Phone, Intranet, Magazines, Mailing Lists, Maps, Network Topology, Newsletters, Organizations, Policies, Resources, Searching the Net, Software, Statistics and Demographics, Usenet, User Groups, World Wide Web, Usenet)
    • Investing (All, , Bonds, Brokerages, Commercial Financial Services, Commercial Investment Services, Corporate Reports, Currencies, Economic Indicators, Exchanges, Forums and Chats, Futures and Options, Hard Assets, Initial Public Offerings, Mutual Funds, News, Organizations, Quotes, Real Estate, Reference and Guides, Socially Responsible Investments, SRI, Software Products, Trading Games and Simulations, FAQs, Usenet
    • Media/news (All, , Broadcasting, Business, Columns, Commercial News Services, Daily, Editorial, Entertainment, Events, Government, Health, Internet, Journalism, Legal, Magazines, Newspapers, Newswires, Personalized News, Politics, Radio, Real-Time Chat, Science, Sports, Technology, Television, Usenet, Weekly, World, WWW What’s New)
    • Movies (All, , Actors and Actresses, Awards, Box Office Reports, Columns, Companies, Contests, Events, Exhibits, Film Festivals, Film Making, Film Music, Film Schools, Genres, History, Home Video, Independent, Interactive Games, Journals, Laserdisc, Lists, Magazines, Mailing Lists, Multimedia, News, Organizations, Parodies, People, Personal Pages, Quotes, Real-Time Chat, Resources, Reviews, Screenplays, Studios, Theaters, Theory and Criticism, This Week’s Releases, Titles, Trivia, Usenet)
    • Music (All, , Artists, Awards, Band Naming, Bootlegs, Charts, Classifieds, Companies, Composition, Computer Generated, Consumer Information, Contests, Countries and Cultures, Cover Art, Discographies, Education, Events, Film Music, Games, Genres, Girl Bands, History, Humor, Independent Music, Instruments, Karaoke, Listening Booth, Lyrics and Notation, Magazines, Mailing Lists, Music Videos, Musicals, News, Organizations, Polls, Radio Programs, Real-Time Chat, Religious, Reviews, Software, Soundtracks, Trivia, Vocal, Usenet)
    • Recreation (All, Amusement/Theme Parks, Animals, Automotive, Aviation, Cooking, Dance, Dating, Drugs, Events, Fashion, Fishing, Games, Hobbies and Crafts, Home and Garden, Hovercraft, Motorcycles, Outdoors, Real-Time Chat, Sports, Toys, Travel)
    • Reference (All, Acronyms and Abbreviations, Almanacs, Atlases, Calendars, Codes, Dictionaries, Encyclopedia, English Language Usage, Etiquette, Flags, Interesting, Journals, Libraries, Maps, Parliamentary Procedure, Patents, Phone Numbers, Postal Information, Quotations, Searching the Net, Standards, Thesauri, Time, Weights and Measures, White Pages)
    • Science (All, Acoustics, Agriculture, Alternative, Amateur Science, Anthropology and Archaeology, Artificial Life, Astronomy, Aviation and Aeronautics, Biology, Chaos, Chemistry, Cognitive Science, Complex Systems, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Ecology, Education, Energy, Engineering, Events, Forensics, Geography, Geology and Geophysics, History, Humor, Hydrology, Information Technology, Institutes, Journals, Life Sciences, Magazines, Mathematics, Medicine, Meteorology, Museums and Exhibits, Nanotechnology, News, Oceanography, Organizations, Paleontology, Paradoxes, Physics, Psychology, Real-Time Chat, Research, Space, Weights and Measures, Zoology, Usenet)
    • Society (All, Affirmative Action, Age, Alternative, Animal Rights, Birth, Charity, Children, Civil Rights, Crime, Cultures, Cyberculture, Death, Disabilities, Diversity, Environment and Nature, Etiquette, Families, Fashion, Firearms, Friendship, Gender, Holidays, Human Rights, Left-Handers, Lesbians, Magazines, Minorities, Museums and Exhibits, Mythology and Folklore, Nonviolence, Organizations, People, Poverty, Race Relations, Real-Time Chat, Relationships, Religion, Reunions, Royalty, Seniors, Sexuality, Singles, Size Issues, Veterans, Weddings)
    • Sports (All, Amateur, Archery, Art, Athletes, Auto Racing, Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Baton Twirling, Billiards, Boat Racing, Boomerang, Bowling, Boxing, Bullfighting, Cable TV Networks, Canoe Polo, Canoe-Kayak Racing, Cheerleading, Coaching, Collectibles, College and University, Companies, Contests, Cricket, Croquet, Curling, Cycling, Danball, Disabilities, Dog Racing, Dogsledding, Education, Equestrian, Events, Fantasy Leagues, Fencing, Fishing, Flying Discs, Footbag Hacky Sack, Football American, Football Australian, Football Gaelic, Gambling, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, High School, History, Hockey, Horse Racing, International Games, Jai-Alai, Jump Rope, Korfball, Lacrosse, Luge, Lumbering, Magazines, Martial Arts, Motorcycle Racing, Museums and Halls of Fame, News and Media, Officiating, Organizations, Orienteering, Paddling, Polo, Psychology, Racquetball, Ratings and Rankings, Real-Time Chat, Regional, Ringette, Rodeo, Rounders, Rowing, Rugby, Running, Sailing, Schedules, Sepak Takraw, Shooting, Shuffleboard, Skateboarding, Skating, Skiing, Skydiving, Snowboarding, Snowmobiles, Soccer, Softball, Software, Squash, Stadiums, Surfing, Swimming and Diving, Table Tennis, Technology, Tennis, Track and Field, Triathlon, Trivia, Tug-of-War, Volleyball, Wakeboarding, Walking, Water Polo, Waterskiing, Weightlifting, Windsurfing, Wrestling, Usenet)
    • Travel (All, Air Travel, Automotive, Backpacking, Boating, Books and Publications, Budget Travel, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Cruises, Currency Exchange, General Information, Health, Honeymoons, Lodging, Magazines, Products, Resorts, Tour Operators, Train Travel, Transportation, Travel Agents, Travel Related Businesses, Travelogues, Virtual Field Trips)
    • Weather (All, Aviation Weather, Books, Climate Centers, Companies, Daily Weather News, Education, Events, Institutes, Maps and Data, Newsletters, Organizations, Real-Time Chat, Research, Software, Storm Chasing, Weather Phenomena, Usenet)

Mark J. Welch is an attorney in Pleasanton, California, and administers a web site which includes extensive and constantly-updated information about internet advertising networks and brokers. He has been quoted in many computer publications on the subject of internet advertising.

Previously, he was Editor-in-Chief of Law Office Technology Review and co-author of a nationally syndicated column reviewing computer products. He worked as a writer and reviewer for InfoWorld (IDG/CW), and earlier was associate news editor at BYTE magazine (McGraw-Hill). Mr. Welch has authored more than 250 published articles in more than two dozen different publications.

Mr. Welch is also the author of the Generic Adventure Game System (1985) and co-author of the Adventure Game Toolkit (1987), both shareware computer programs for creating “interactive fiction.” He was a founding member of the Association of Shareware Professionals.

Mr. Welch received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall School of Law), and his B.A. degree in journalism/interdisciplinary (computer and information sciences) at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

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