Friction Point Between Traditional Publishers And Web Spurs Chafing, Action

There is always a kind of push-me, pull-me dynamic with traditional publishers and programmers when it comes to the Web, woth virtually all of those players furiously yo-yo-ing between engagement and disengagement with the mores of a Web-centric world. At heart of the ambivalence is the way said traditional players can have a hard time with a very basic concept of media on the Web: that other, outside parties can make a buck selling advertising around said players content*.

(*-Can we please come up with another word for “content”? Jesus. What an ugly and jargony term. While we’re at it, it’s 2008, and we still don’t have a satisfactory name for this decade. "Aughts"? Not cutting it. Someone please take care of that as well. Thanks.)

A couple of years ago this tension led me to write a column based on a what-if--that the traditional players take this to its logical extreme and create a kind of content (sorry!) commons Web site that’s walled off to outside search engines. This was a fun intellectual exercise, though it was clear that, for reasons I elucidate in the column, it was extremely unlikely such a venture could actually happen.

It hasn't, as you've noticed. In retrospect, a more plausible friction point can be found in the relationship between traditional publishers’ sites and ad networks. Mediaweek’s Mike Shields wrote earlier this week that ESPN is opting out of Specific Media’s ad network as well as several other unnamed ad networks, and his piece quotes a Turner Media SVP essentially saying that the Time Warner unit is mulling the same.

The article also amplifies recent comments from former Yahoo-er and current Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia-er Wenda Millard, warning against the commodification of media brand’s online ads at the hands of these ad networks.

This issue provides an easy way for media companies to focus their frustration on how the pot of gold online remains elusive. (Also, some of their concerns about how ad networks cheapen their other ad inventiry, as well as they Web sites' feel, have some validity.)

As such, I have a feeling this will be a major just-below-the-surface issue in media this year. And I wonder in what form it will next surface.

For now, though, do check out Shields’ piece.

UPDATE: My colleague Heather Green weighed in earlier on Shields' piece, including this smart nugget:

What’s ironic is that whenever the Internet becomes social, with email or chat or now social networks, it becomes so much less measurable.

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