The death of advertising?

New York Times: Ziff Davis is said to plan a bankruptcy. The once powerful media giant, whose magazines I (and every other computer user my age) once avidly, avariciously consumed, is about ready to pull a Worldcom.

It’s been a tough year in the ad business. A lot of corporations, spanked by the downturn or their own problems, just don’t have the money to spend on advertising. As a result, a lot of businesses that depend on it get wobbly. Some go under. It’s happened to quite a few places on the Web–places that decided that they would give away products or content and “monetize eyeballs.”

Yeah, we all laughed when people said this back in the .com era. But what about players like Ziff Davis? Hey, monetizing eyeballs was all they ever did. Computer magazines–just a convenient, foldable billboard for advertisers.

There’s something particularly ironic about the Ziff Davis case. As Ziff Davis was busy puffing new hardware and software offerings, and writing little lightweight pieces about web sites that contained free software you could download for your new hardware, something much more powerful was coming from that web. Companies were figuring out how to expose their content to users more directly than through ads.

And the users? They were figuring out that a lot of this new stuff was being made up on the fly. Some of them got savvy enough to help make it up themselves.

In other words, Ziff Davis got disintermediated. By the Internet.

That’s a hell of a thing. The very thing that all the .coms claimed to be doing has started to happen–after they all crashed.

And it’s not just publishing. Look at the assholery being spouted by Jamie Kellner of TNN. Would he say that if TV commercials weren’t being choked into irrelevance? If TV ads served any useful purpose to TV watchers, there would be no need for him to proclaim any “contract” that TV watchers were “violating” by skipping commercials. No, the TV audience, known more familiarly as you and me, are also Internet users. And they’ve shown all the guys dreaming up “synergy” business plans between the Internet and TV where the real synergies are. It’s in the minds of the users.

See, the TV audience, who are also Internet users, have learned things from the Internet. They’ve always known TV commercials are, in the parlance of the Net, damage. Now they’ve learned from the Internet how to route around that damage.

Who mourns for advertising?

Update: Doc kindly pointed back to this article.