It has to be only a matter of time before the ABC is offering advertising on its website and programs as the federal government opens up government websites to commercial advertising.
In the course of checking the weather to see how long the latest Brisbane thunder storm might last I went to the Bureau of Meteorology Weather Radar site to see, for the first time that I can recall, a commercial advert.
This was for gifts under $200 available from The Good Guys. Refreshing the page revealed other government departments, and Tiger Air, as well as the bureau itself, to also be advertisers on the BOM site.
I was impressed with the speed with which the Abbott government had rushed to find fresh sources of finance to pay back the debt, until I checked Promotional and advertising material on agency websites - Web Guide.
Turns out it was the previous government that decided to implement a 12 month trial, starting in July this year, and only on the BOM site, because of the high traffic that it attracts.
I’m not sure how I missed the advertising before, or perhaps they have only just implemented the policy.
As their advertising doesn’t seem to involve conventional ad serving software, it’s possible it took them 4 months to sort themselves out.
If the trial succeeds this has got to put pressure on the ABC to take advertising. While they wouldn’t make much compared to their overall budget, it would still be a significant amount.
But only if they can get proper take-up from advertisers.
The way they have gone about it suggests that there could be an element of institutional sabotage.
Having mostly internal government ads with occasional commercial ads says either commercial advertisers aren’t that interested, or BOM doesn’t have anyone doing effective advertising sales.
But it is easy to sell ads on any website by signing-up for Google adsense. My recent experience suggests this will return more money, more easily, than retaining your own advertising sales team, or ad agency.
So why aren’t they displaying Google ads?
There’s no reason I can see that government sites shouldn’t be able to run advertising, but it sends a cold shiver down my spine. Unlike the offline world, there is no end of inventory for ads online. That makes the free-to-air publishing model difficult, and probably impossible, to follow with a news, or any other, website.
And imagine if you could advertise on the ABC website – where would that leave Fairfax et al?