Can the Online Publishers Association learn how to share value?

June 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

The Online Publishers Association(OPA) and comScore are hitting the road with a study about the ability of display advertising to support brands online. Excellent news.

The report in Mediaweek talking about the study takes a shot at ad networks – “Perhaps not surprisingly, besides defend display ads, the report also touts the power of branded content sites (rather than say, ad networks” - but we feel fine about that and are inclined to agree that not enough networks do enough to sell the value of content online. Most of them can’t, because they don’t work transparently with their publishers, which makes it hard to extol the virtues of place and position and content quality – all the things, frankly, that attract users.

That said, the OPA remains an emblem of one of the Great Barriers to advertising progress online. As an entity, it is informed by the right instincts and sells the right things online – notably, the important value of content - but it feels it must contest the ability of anything besides the large, branded media members it represents to create that value. That is preposterous. It is like anyone contesting the wisdom of self-government. Really. If, instead, the OPA or its members - as experienced advocates - could embrace the audience engagement created by the thousands of niche publishers that, in fact, make up most of the Internet, then the OPA could do a great service, and play a larger role, as an advocate of the value of online overall – and value might, after all, see daylight online. It has a clear advantage over the IAB in this regard, which has had to pick its way through all manner of sellers and agents, many of which got rich doing end-runs around value.

You see our problem. One trade group is conflicted. The other trade group is conflicted.

It’s a pickle.

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