Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

(Cautiously) Upbeat Ad News of the Day: (Some) Display Ads Improving

tunnelHere’s your daily dose of goodish news about the Web ad business, courtesy (again) of Mark Mahaney, who says display ads are perking up. Or at least some of them are.

The Citigroup (C) analyst spoke with PubMatic and the Rubicon Project, two “optimization” firms that help publishers manage inventory they hand over to ad networks. And both say they’re seeing continued upticks in sales and demand.

Pubmatic, for instance, says pricing has increased every month this year, and Rubicon says that they’re seeing demand from–believe it or not–travel and auto advertisers. Just as encouraging, buyers are actually making “longer-term” plans, which was unheard of in the darkest days of 2008 and 2009.

Both firms also reiterate the conventional wisdom that we’ve been hearing for the past 12 months: The money that is being spent is increasingly going to “performance-based” ads, which are paid for only when someone interacts with them. That’s another data point in favor of Google (GOOG), whose core product is performance-based.

Again: Things were so lousy a year ago and through the spring of 2009 that it’s prudent to take these kinds of data in stride.

And if you really want to be half-empty about it, you can note that the inventory Rubicon and Pubmatic sell is the cheapest real estate publishers have to offer. Which means it’s hard to say how various sites’ high-end real estate–the stuff they sell themselves–is doing.

We’ll get a better sense of that in about a month or so, during Q3 earnings season, when we get color from Web publishers like Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL and the New York Times (NYT).

But, as I said, this is supposed to be an optimistic post.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald