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If T-Rex Innovated This Quickly, He Wouldn’t Be Extinct

Ryan North, unsatisfied with having Oh No Robot and RSSPECT out there, has dropped Project Wonderful on the wide world o’ webcomics. In the words of the site, Advertising online just got totally awesome (a scary thought) and everybody wins, which is more reassuring.

Basic rundown: it’s an advertisting auction market. If you want to run an ad, you can bid a price and a period of time you want the ad to run (or reverse it: “run my ad whenever I can get it for a dollar a day”); if you have the high bid, the ad runs, and if you don’t, you’re not charged. If you want to run ads, you take the top bid for a period of time. It’s also got an interesting wrinkle, which we’ll let the TMM tell us about:

The wrinkle we throw on top of that is free advertising: all auctions start at $0, and you can place a bid of $0 if you want. This has two benefits: advertisers get free advertising (always a bonus) and website owners get to replace the “advertise here PLEASE I NEED THIS” banners that we’ve all seen with actual ads. It gets around the problem of people thinking “nobody’s advertising here – maybe it’s because there’s something wrong with it!” in a way that I hope is pretty elegant!

In addition, North has included “ad boxes”, where multiple ads (from multiple advertisers, at potentially different prices) can run in the space of a single banner ad; check out the top line on Dinosaur Comics for an example of eight ads in one. Of more interest is the transparency in the model; again, Ryan North:

A lot of online advertising has relied upon hiding information: ad companies want to get the highest ad prices for their member websites, but ALSO want to get the cheapest rates for their advertisers, and they way they do this is basically by hiding the truth: sites like AdSense won’t tell you what an advertiser paid to have their ad on your site — they’ll just tell you what they’re paying you. Stuff like that is dishonest or at least evasive, and what PW does is offer complete transparency: we show you what kind of hits the site is getting, who’s been linking to them, and what people have been paying in the past. We’re not going to rip anyone off by leading them to believe something that isn’t true, and we’re offering a free informed market for ads.

This one is going to take a bit of thought to see how useful it is (for example, a number of smart people hold to the idea that online advertising is essentially dead), but it definitely bears watching. North is running beta testing on it now, and when it’s ready to roll for actual sign-ups, he hopes to have other features in place:

We have a search engine for websites where you can specify what kind of sites you want to advertise on, and get emailed whenever there’s new results. You can even say things like “Tell me whenever a new site is linked to by BoingBoing (or Fleen) because that means they’re going to get a lot of hits and I want to get in on that”. Of course, with just me on the network right now that’s not THAT useful, but I hope it will become a powerful tool in the next few months.

We’ll check back in on Project Wonderful in a couple of months and see if we can get North to give us a rundown on to what degree it’s met his expectations. In the meantime, Fleen is accepting entries in the first iteration of the “What kind of webcomics tool will Ryan North come up with next?” contest; whoever comes closest in description and timeframe with their guess will win the people’s ovation and fame forever.

Thanks Gary! If online advertising is indeed DEAD then I hope this will be a site to make it, at least, a zombie.

The move away from Pay Per Click and Pay Per Display that Project Wonderful represents (replacing it instead with Pay Per Time, which can’t be hacked like the other two can) will hopefully go some way to restoring people’s trust and enthusiasm in online advertising!

Also I now realize that I totally should have called the site Project Zombie.

Alternative names that I was considering:

Project Sinister (an awesome name, but too – sinister? If I come up with a truly sinister online project, that is what I will call it.) (wasn’t available, and also the site has nothing to do with greek letters or forces, but it sounds SO COOL. JOIN OMEGAFORCE DOT COM AND GET FREE HEADBAND) (nixed by everyone I pitched it to FOR SOME REASON)

Anyone who wants to use, please feel free to use it! If Myspace was called, I think we’d all enjoy making fun of it THAT MUCH MROE.

I think this is really an excellent idea; the trouble with it will likely be getting bigger advertisers to change the way they operate and buy into this. If that doesn’t happen, then we will be seeing a lot of free ads.

Also, I wonder if this is the most profitable way for a website to advertise. I certainly think it’s more universally fair, and it will allow the market to stabilize naturally, but is that what content providers really want?

Despite my playing devil’s advocate, I’m super-jazzed to try it out, so consider me an early adopter.

I have already signed up and have Project Wonderful buttons running on my site! I am super-excited to see how this works out. It’ll be nice for smaller advertisers to be able to advertise on the site without me having to lift too many fingers.

I’ve already registered and will begin running ads soon as PW lets me. I am super-psyched to see how well this works!


Reading the proposal makes me think this is the BEST IDEA EVER.

You are owner of a substantial brain Ryan. Truly substantial.

Kudos! Thumbs up! Attaboy! Congratulatory Pat On the Back!

This sounds awesome.

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