Subprime Problems with Online Advertising

Will online advertising survive?

Back in 2008 the world experienced the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis. Greed, combined with a dose of stupidity put the global economy into a tailspin. The question I have been asking myself is whether the online advertising industry is heading for its own subprime shakeout.

The global financial crisis was caused by blending toxic loans that would never be paid back with good loans that would. The thought of big commissions spurred Wall Street forward to meddle with the ratio of good performing to bad performing loans so they were weighted on the wrong side of the ledger.

Ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard and Poors would look at these loan blends and put a rating on them that represented the riskiness of the blended loan portfolio. The problem is the agencies were paid by the banks that were trying to sell them… guess what, all these toxic loan portfolios received the highest investment rating.

I know that I’ve over simplified the whole financial crisis but what happened next was incredibly predictable and now a part of history. People lost their jobs as a credit squeeze hit the financial markets and central bankers wondered how they were blindsided.

Let’s compare this to the online advertising industry.

Traffic can be bought at varying degrees of quality and blended together so that it’s just acceptable enough for advertisers to buy. In fact, the name of the game for many traffic sellers is to get an advertiser hooked on the “heroin” and then dilute the traffic quality with “talcum powder”. This way the sellers can maximise their returns.

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