Smart ads are a worthy tool — if safeguards are built in
This column appeared in the April 1999 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
The worst-kept secret of online advertising is this: Nobody clicks on banner ads. And that’s bad news for a Web publication’s bottom line.
At least one online newspaper is taking steps to turn that around through a technique called targeted advertising — essentially, tailoring ads right down to the individual user.
It’s a gambit worth exploring, as other Internet companies have done. But online publishers considering such a move should not minimize the importance of posting clear policies to reassure users worried about their privacy rights.
Some time in April, the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Web site is due to launch a new ad-targeting program. The reason? Fewer than 1 percent of visitors were clicking on banner ads, a rate in line with the rest of the online industry.