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Online Advertising – Similarities with Print Ads


Sometimes it's easier to understand the new by comparing it with the old. That's easy to do with online advertising. As much as we all like to tout the net as a new media with new rules, many of the principles that have long governed print advertising are still in play online today.

Traffic. The goal of advertising, generally, is to be seen. Thus, well-trafficked locations are far more desirable than those who only get a smattering of visitors. In the era of newspapers, we spoke in terms of readership numbers. Today, it's traffic. It's the same idea.

Page Rank. Internet advertising is interesting because it occurs on two different levels. On one hand, it's a matter of being seen. That's when traffic matters most. At the same time, however, online ads feature links to the advertiser's site. The search engines utilize those links to determine a site's authority and presence within search results. Thus, there's search engine optimization value in advertising on sites the search engines consider authoritative, regardless of actual traffic levels. In print circles, prestigious publications that are read by decision-makers and industry leaders can charge more even when they have a smaller circulation. The same concept is at play online.

Ad Size. The Internet may be a new media for publishing, but the old rules still apply in some senses. Today we measure ads in pixels instead of column inches, but the age old reality that big ads cost more money is still true.

Site Demographics. If you're selling boats, you want to advertise on a website focused on boats. If you're selling a high-end product, you'd like to advertise on a site that caters to a wealthier demographic. Selling video games? You're probably trying to find a way to reach the younger set. It's been that way in print forever. People try to match their ad messages with publications whose reader demographics are a good match. Once again, there's “nothing new under the sun”.

There are many differences between old-school print advertising and online ads. The Internet's use of a pay-per-click model, for instance, represents a very interesting departure. So does the use of contextual advertising based on on-site and logged reader information.

Despite the differences, however, there is a great deal of common ground. The rules of advertising may be changing, but many of them remain intact online today.

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