I Am Where I Am In Life Because Of Advertising Online

Portrait of Joshua Schnell
by Joshua Schnell
Nov 25, 2016

Ever since I was a ‘tween I wanted to work as a technology journalist. I didn’t know what it was called, or how to go about getting the gig, but every time I stumbled across some consumer technology review on the television (the internet was barely a thing), and saw someone talking about gadgets, I knew I’d eventually be doing that too.

The thought about how I’d get paid to do it never once crossed my mind.

Advertising Online Pays The Bills For A Lot Of Everyday People.

It’s easy to get caught up in the machinations of an industry or to bemoan the seemingly Machiavellian plans of some of the largest players in ad tech, with the data collection, cookie syncing, and assault on privacy. When I boil it all down, I come back to one simple truism: advertising online is responsible for driving the revenue of the majority of content creation on the internet. It creates jobs. It helps people chase their dreams.

I got to play tech journalist for a decade. Advertising made that possible. Running display advertisements on my blog paid my tuition costs. It paid for a wedding. It paid for a honeymoon. It paid for a down payment on my first home. It helped me lineup all of the things I needed in life to confidently start a family, have kids, and eventually carve out a career.

My little tech blog, monetized solely through display advertisements (thanks to BuySellAds) and affiliate programs (thanks to Amazon and StackCommerce), made my life possible. It made it possible for me to focus on my craft (writing), and make a living while doing it. Millions of small and independent media company owners rely on advertising to grow their businesses (sadly, they’re the ones bearing the brunt of the ad blocker revolution today).

Advertising will always have a soft spot in my heart. It can affect change, and the majority of that change is positive. It happens by lowering real barriers to industries that often have a stranglehold on revenue online. Of course, with all the good, sometimes we get the bad as well. Fake news can be used as a dangerous propaganda tool, and it’s currently being monetized through advertising.

Over the last couple of years, it’s become increasingly evident that the online advertising industry is in need of a soul transplant. But, we shouldn’t throw the good out with the bad. Advertising online can do a lot of good, especially when it’s used to facilitate change in creative and media industries. Lately, everyone in the online ecosystem has forgotten that the consumer’s needs and expectations are the most important part of the advertising equation.

Advertising Online Is Deeply Flawed.

Advertising has its problems, and plenty of brilliant minds are trying to tackle the situation directly. Some are looking to redefine the industry, while others are seeking to provide creatives with different tools to earn a living from their life’s work. There’s no one solution, at least not yet. But, we’ll get there. The more monetization strategies available to media companies, both small and large, the better.

I often get asked why I took a job at an ad tech company by friends and family. It always comes back to two things for me: first, the industry has given me so much, I’d like to give back and pave the way for the next generation of media startups; second, as a little guy, I couldn’t influence much change on my own. I couldn’t alter the advertising paradigm or change its course, but from within the industry, I can help bring privacy and user-experience issues to the forefront. I can apply my experiences as a publisher within a company that shares my belief that ad tech doesn’t need to rely on deep-targeting data to survive.

I wish more independent publishers would join the ad tech debate and bring their experiences with them.

There Are A Lot Of Things I Don’t Know, But I Know This…

Advertising will always be around in one form (classifieds) or another (ad tech). People will always market their products. The key to getting back on track, though, is whether or not we can get back to a time and place where we can do those things ethically.

I believe we can.