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The Rebirth Of Direct-To-Advertiser?

In the earlier days of the internet, one of my favourite websites was Philip Kaplan's FuckedCompany.com. Archive.org have excluded it for some reason, but the story of it lives on at Wikipedia. There's also a book (that I re-read constantly).

To cut a long story short, Philip (or, Pud as he became known) created the site - a dotcom deadpool - for a bit of a laugh. He spun it up on a weekend, emailed some friends about it, turned off his laptop, and went on a mini holiday.

He returned to chaos. Traffic was off the charts. News outlets were writing about it. In a time when the Dot-com bubble was about to burst, disgruntled employees shared stories of hype and excess. Pud was a web designer by trade, and suddenly had server costs he needed to cover. So, he decided to sell some ads.

These were the days before Google Adsense existed. The only real way to make money from advertising was to sell them yourself. But, as a team of one, Pud didn't have the time or resources to knock on the doors of advertising agencies.

So he built a solution. Marketbanker was super simple. Publishers could create ad zones on their site, give them a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual price, and Marketbanker would look after the rest. Advertisers could - with a credit card - secure one of the ad placements available in zones. It worked surprisingly well.

The "Your ad here" experience eventually turned into - ironically - the venture-backed and now defunct AdBrite. I was a customer myself, as both an advertiser and a publisher. Over time, ad networks like ValueClick and Google Adsense swallowed up the market, and AdBrite was no more. But they left a legacy that feels relevant today.

These days not all website owners want or need the hassle of dealing with GDPR compliance, cookie popups, or figuring out the difference between first party and third party data. Some bloggers just want to create content, share it, and cover their costs.

That's why it was interesting to see Guilherme Rizzo's approach to monetizing his new website, beachguide.co. Visit the site, click on the "Advertise" link up top, and you'll reach a nice, simple ad buying interface hosted on Gumroad.

It doesn't offer the usual bells-and-whistes of advertising platforms like CPA, CPC, or CPM pricing. It doesn't have any typical targeting options, either. Nor does it need to. If your business is relevant to the topic of the site and is relevant for people in a country, city, or beach, you can target certain pages or categories. Simplicity in action.

There are other recent examples I can think of. Pieter Levels created a simple way for businesses to advertise on Nomad List. He sets pricing and keeps 100% of the money. He's attracted some popular brands - including Microsoft, Stripe, and GoDaddy.

Twenty years after it first appeared, are we about to witness the rebirth of Direct-To-Advertiser? Only time will tell.