In its story about the latest failure of AOL to find a strategy, the Times repeats a bit of big-media conventional wisdom that should be abandoned: that big is where it’s at and portals are a winning strategy. The Times calls the failure of the AOL portal strategy a “quirk” when it should call this a lesson:
The company’s challenges highlight one of the quirks of today’s Internet market. As advertising is moving from offline media to the Internet at a rapid clip, portals, which command some of the biggest audiences online, should be among the top beneficiaries. Instead, the travails of the mass market portals like AOL, as well as Yahoo and Microsoft, indicate a decline in power.
Once and for all: The size of the site doesn’t matter to advertisers. Oh, yes, they still think its matters and for a time that’s still how they buy, by reflex. But get this straight: Just because a site has 100 million users, that doesn’t mean 10o million people see your ad. It’s not TV. Repeat: It’s not TV. The only people who will see your ad are the ones who see the page on which it appears. If you buy 10,000 impressions, aka eyeballs, you can buy them on a big site or a bunch of small sites, it doesn’t matter. Big brings no advantage other than convenience and it also brings some disadvantages like inefficiency and price. This is the essence of the change in the economic model of media. Post that on your wall and stare at it.