Is digital advertising broken?

Last week Medium founder Ev Williams created a stir in the media world after laying off a third of the publishing platform’s staff. He placed much of the blame for the massive layoff at digital advertising’s feet, claiming that it’s a “broken system.” He wrote in a post on Medium that digital advertising fails to reward the best content but rather content that can attract a few seconds of attention. Williams added that Medium does not have the solution to this problem yet, but it will try to create a new revenue model that doesn’t detract from the reading experience.

But despite these very real and serious challenges, digital advertising is still one of the most efficient ways to drive revenue online and can connect advertisers with consumers on a massive scale or at an individual level.

Ad fraud and blocking aside (Ed: that’s a big aside), digital advertising still provides the best opportunities for advertisers to know exactly who viewed their ad and what actions they took after viewing that ad. That is simply not feasible in print or television. Plus, digital advertising offers unmatched reach, allowing advertisers to target users wherever they might go on the web. That is why it’s not surprising that online advertising spend has reached an all time high, according to a recent IAB report. Revenues hit $17.6 billion in Q3 of 2016, a 20% increase year-over-year.

And these ad dollars are not necessarily being spent in vain. Many publishers are elevating how they distribute ads and report engagement, proving to advertisers that their money is well spent. Time Inc., for example, rolled out an ambitious advertising program in 2016 after acquiring ad tech provider (and owner of MySpace) Viant.

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