This Week’s Agenda: Ideas to Dispel the Gloom

Gloom can’t survive a flood of good ideas. Eventually the light will win.

We know, for instance, that Web advertising does have a branding impact. Even plain banners have a branding impact, although bigger formats have a bigger impact.

The question is, Where can you get ads, and how can you drive traffic to those ads, without breaking your (miniscule — all right, nonexistent) budget?

Well, throughout this summer of Web discontent, I’ve received a steady stream of notes from entrepreneurs pushing new Web ideas designed to make money, build traffic, and bring the ad market back.

Not all of these ideas will work. Not all of these companies will succeed. Maybe none will succeed. But for those who claim that it’s all been done and the industry is finished — well, as Mark Twain said, reports of its death are somewhat exaggerated.

One of the biggest problems we had in the 1990s, for instance, was tracking, understanding, and rationalizing the differences in Web logs between publisher sites that sold ads and advertisers that delivered ads. The publishers, it seems, always counted a lot more ads than advertisers.

Recently, Mediaplex Inc. in San Francisco, an ad-serving company, sent me a white paper on the subject. The honesty with which the company describes the various factors — spiders, incomplete loads, and so on — that cause differences in ad counts is refreshing.

The paper also offers a simple procedure for handling the discrepancies. Mediaplex now shares its files with publishers and pays up to 10 percent over its own statistics, when the difference is that great.

One of the Holy Grails of the 1990s was the search for a micropayment technology. OptiView Technologies Inc. in Dulles, VA, best known for its page optimization system, is now offering a micropayment solution.

The OptiView system is based on a system of tokens that handle sales as small as a few pennies in size.

Bob Lentz, vice president of strategy, sent an Acrobat file about the system, and he explained that customers buy tokens in bulk, and sites redeem them in bulk, with an issuing authority taking a small cut to manage the process. OptiView is in the market for some issuing authorities.

There’s a new search engine concept in Santa Clara, CA,: With1Click from Pixelmation Internet Technologies LLC creates a custom Web page from each search, writes Stephen W. Oachs, the chief technology officer.

Searches take place directly from a user’s address bar, and the results are listed under separate URLs. This makes each search result highly portable.

Innovation isn’t just taking place in the U.S., either. Web entrepreneurship is, more than ever, a worldwide phenomenon.

In Moray, Scotland, for instance, Fraser Hay is offering cobranded versions of his own Hitsnclicks content database to other sites on a revenue-share basis.

You can customize the content, put your own brand on it, and pay no money. You can generate traffic for just a share of the advertising revenue.

In Vdxjv, Sweden, Jonas Hollander of software developer Lemonbox AB is offering a traffic-building system called ClusterTraffic. Like a Web ring, the system draws sites with similar interests to the attention of users, growing the traffic of all of them.

“A Web site connected to a cluster typically sees an increase in highly targeted traffic of between 30 and 60 percent,” he writes. “Compared to other methods of attracting targeted visitors, ClusterTraffic is extremely cost-effective.”

With so many ideas coming on stream, things have just got to get better.

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