Imagine if I came up to you one day with this business idea: Let’s buy a full page ad in the leading newspaper of leading cities and then hire sales people in each city to sell small ads within that full page, so that, the total of all ads we sell will be more than the cost of the full page ad we bought.

It’s a bull**** idea 'coz it’s just not possible to beat the big newspaper guys who have priced their pages in such a way that it’s impossible to do ‘trading’ on their product!

I use this example to de-mystify and de-bunk the biggest blunder of the dot com world – how start up entrepreneurs supported by their VCs encouraged new websites (and still do) to BUY ads online, in print and even on hoardings so that consumers VISIT that site – ONLY to sell ads back to them!

It’s a LOSE-LOSE model all the way.

Let me explain assuming that entrepreneur Desmond has just started ‘’ a website that allows teens to dress up various models in different clothes as entertainment. In the process of dressing up etc, these teens are shown ads and this is Desmond’s revenue generation.

Cost when Desmond BUYS ads:

No of online ads bought on site Cost per 1000 ads ( CPM) in Indian Rupees Money Spent on ads (In Indian Rupees) Click thru % on the ads(the % of viewers who click) Visitors who click on the ads but fall off on the way (lost clicks) Visitors who land up on Desmond’s site
1000 150 Rs 150 1% 20% 8


Revenue when Desmond SELLS ADS

Visitors arriving from Pages that each visitor will generate Ads shown per page Total ads shown Rate at which Desmond sells ads (CPM) Revenue generated in Indian Rupees
8 10 3 240 150 Rs 36

There is a gross loss of Rs. 115 (Rs. 150 less Rs. 36) purely trying to ARBITRAGE ads.

Sure, there are counter arguments that:

  • Repeat visits from the same person will generate additional revenue.
  • Viral traffic created by the first set of visitors (by them telling their friends to visit the site) will result in additional page views and ads and hence bring in more revenue.

Having been there and done that extensively, the shortfall is never made up.

Buying ads for selling ads is a business model for suckers.

The real success of websites that have sold ads has been viral and organic growth. That’s why you never see ads of Facebook or Orkut in newspapers or on hoardings. Sure, Yahoo! advertises TODAY – but that’s after building a $6 billion business that now needs more Brand Building than additional traffic.

If this argument is true, then how does GOOGLE become the biggest success in online advertising in the history of mankind?

Because, MOST advertisers on Google sell THINGS on their websites – not ads!

Let me explain with the same example:

Cost when Desmond BUYS ADS on Google:

Cost per Click on Google India No of Clicks Desmond buys Cost of advertising Visitors who click on the ads but fall off on the way (lost clicks) Visitors who land up on Desmond’s site
Rs. 10 100 Rs. 1000 20% 80

Revenue when Desmond SELLS GOODS on his site

Visitors who land up from Google % of them who PAY for virtual goods* Paying users Rs spent by them per time they pay** Revenue generated
80 10% 8 Rs. 150 Rs. 1200

* Global norm of 10% paying for virtual goods (farmville)

** ARPPU (average revenue per user is US $5 globally) – reduced to US $3 for India

There is a gross profit of Rs. 200 (Rs. 1200-Rs. 1000) in this model.

This IS the google model that allows millions of small business owners to sell boots, tents, handicrafts, jewelry and virtual goods to direct consumers via the advertising model. The entrepreneurs keeps tweaking their ad words ‘bid’ prices on Google so that the net cost of buying traffic results in a positive outcome via sales.

Choose me, choose me!!!

Choose me, choose me!!!

Advertising was invented to introduce you to new products and services and induce you to buy them. Stick to that rather than trying to resell what you bought!


Originally posted on Feb 18, 2010 on

Views: 669

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thank you for the advice, so is traditional form of advertising much better than going online. 

' encouraged new websites (and still do) to BUY ads online, in print and even on hoardings so that consumers VISIT that site – ONLY to sell ads back to them!' ......hahahah  

Great post.... but you didn't gave a remedy

Nice article. Very detailed and informative


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