One of the biggest hurdles that online publishers have faced in trying to make money from content has been the lack of a single standard for micropayments. While services like Paypal have made strides in popularizing a form of digital cash, micropayments of less than 1 cent still remain impossible online. As a result, sites have come up with their own subscription models, but there is no single technology that can allow users to pay for "premium" content easily, quickly, and across multiple sites. Where there is no cash, trade will most often take it’s place – and there are signs the same is happening online.
Ultramercial is a company that offer publishers the ability to serve ads to their audience as "payment" for premium content. Moving beyond just full screen tv ads, Ultramercials offer a story-driven format that their site boasts "repositions advertisers as good guys that enable viewers to access pay content for free." In addition, by getting viewers to make choices within the ad, you can get data about their preferences (assuming they answer honestly, of course). Contrast this approach with the big rich media advertising enablers like Pointroll, who also have full page takeover advertising delivered in an interruption marketing model. Pointroll calls the full page ads "BadBoys" – ironically joking with the name that it’s something advertisers shouldn’t do, even while they sell it as probably their most profitable unit.
Instead of using bigger and louder interruptions to generate attention, the Ultramercial site points to their focus on delivering "meaningful impressions." That’s the advantage of online in a nutshell – the ability to get a meaningful impression. Not necessarily clicks, or conversions – though those are important too. But there is a huge value in a meaningful impression, particularly as it becomes harder and harder to get through television, radio, and even online. Ultramercials seems to have found the ideal place to sit, between publishers, advertisers and consumers – and offer something to each one. As more advertisers demand meaningful impressions, Pointroll and Eyeblaster might be the ones struggling to keep up.