Word that an ad rebound won't come until at least mid-2002 is bad news for companies dependent on online ads for revenue. But at least one company is trying to change the way advertisers look at the Internet and, in turn, change the way they value their online ads.
Click-throughs have been one of the standard ways to measure the effectiveness of online ads. They allow advertisers to track not just how many people see a particular ad, but how many are engaged enough to "click through" to the underlying Web site.
Compared with traditional advertising, click-throughs were a major breakthrough. Advertisers could see not just how many people saw their ads, but get hard data on how well those ads worked. And by tying advertising fees to click-through performance--cost per thousand is a standard measurement rate--advertisers could guarantee that they paid only for ads that worked.
But as click-through rates have declined, sites dependent on advertising have taken it on the chin. Now CBS MarketWatch is looking to try something different.
Starting this week, the dot-com said it would no longer automatically provide click-through data to its advertisers. Instead, the company is asking advertisers to reevaluate why and how they work on the Web and examine other performance metrics, such as brand or product awareness or post-viewing measurements.
"Click-through rates are a misleading statistic," said Scot McLernon, executive vice president of sales at MarketWatch. "They aren't indicative of raised awareness of consumer interest."
On a conference call with analysts, DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan said MarketWatch's move is a sign of things to come. "This is a leading trend I think we'll see throughout the industry," he said. The idea is to get advertisers to look at the Internet as a passive medium, where branding is as important as interaction.