Search the Site

Are You a Web Tipper?

In response to yesterday’s post about declining newspaper circulation, there was a reader comment that surprised me:

I think The N.Y. Times and Washington Post websites are great (although I don’t pay for “Times Select” but I do think that their site has the best presentation, appearance-wise). I always try and remember to click on the ad banners once in a while to try and keep the sites free or at least much of the content free. Opening the ads in another tab on Firefox is not so disruptive. Or click and minimize.

What surprises me is the part about this person clicking on the site’s ads. It’s as if he’s dropping a dollar in the guitar case of a subway musician, hoping it will help bring the musician back tomorrow — although in this case, there’s no person taking note of his generosity, as minor as it may be. (We’ve touched on similar issues here and here and here.)

It made me wonder if this commenter is a lone rider or if lots of people click on the ads for sites they want to support. Do you do this? Such behavior is the opposite of click fraud but I don’t have a clever name for it.

Most display ads are probably run on a cost-per-thousand basis, but advertisers can obviously use the click-through rate to judge their effectiveness. (You may have noticed that our site is now running display ads; I wonder if the commenter above and others are doing their web tipping on this site too.) The big issues here are a) how well old media like the Times and the Post can be supported by advertising as they migrate to the web and b) how effective advertising is in general, a huge question that we are hoping to address in our writing someday.