This post came to my attention earlier this week, and it totally made my day! The problems outlined are exactly what we've been trying to help solve in online advertising, and the Project Wonderful section is a great summary of how our auction works in contrast to the model most people are familiar with.
I’m happy to address a couple of the questions/suggestions raised about how Project Wonderful’s set up, which I'm hiding in spoiler tags because I ramble and don't want everyone to face a daunting wall of text.
Comments about default ads:
The main reason we don’t support rotation for the default ads is that it's hard to justify the overhead necessary for it when it doesn't generate any income to offset those costs. The alternative suggestion of collapsing the ad box entirely (perhaps aside from the caption) if there are no active bids really has no counter-argument to the point you've made, though, so there's potential to support that sooner than later. I’ve added it to our development wishlist.
Comments/curiosity about size and growth:
As for size, Project Wonderful's been growing slowly but steadily since it first launched in late 2006. We expand primarily through word-of-mouth and the captions on ad boxes, which is why the highest competition is in the communities that have been growing with us the longest (first webcomics, followed by handmade creators). It's fascinating to watch the transition when we spread to new people-oriented communities. We do have positive cashflow and we're satisfied with the pace of expansion, but we wouldn't complain if there was an influx of quality advertisers to help our publishers earn more!
The main restriction I see on the pace of our growth is the quality standards that we have, in particular around the advertising that tries to trick readers into clicking and handing over their personal information or money for empty promises, which you'd commented on early in your article. We've actually created a FAQ article to help dissuade the advertisers in those niches not to advertise with us in the first place (https://www.projectwonderful.com/wecanhelp.php?id=66
), and we actively remove any ads along those lines that sneak past the safeguards we use to protect those policies. We turn away a lot of income and advertisers due to those policies, but the publishers working with us have been consistent supporters of the line we've drawn -- like you, they aren't willing to sell out their readers to abusive practices. The advertising pool does grow in spite of that, but it's slower than at the more mainstream networks because of that difference.
It’s nice to see people participating in the discussion. While it can be tricky sometimes to arrange custom ad purchases like what phitsc suggests, there are programs that can help with managing the details if some of the advertisers want specific terms covering dates or impressions. (I think OpenX
has one, but I’ll admit I haven’t kept up-to-date on their offerings.) Thanks to mahesh2k for pointing out a couple of other companies with publisher-friendly/reader-friendly models. I hadn’t heard of PassionFruit or Carbon Ads before, and it’s fabulous to see other ad networks looking for ways to make online advertising a beneficial experience for everyone involved.
Thanks to mouser for giving Project Wonderful a shoutout, and for starting a discussion about ads with your community in the first place. Online advertising doesn’t have to be as terrible as the norms we see!