The Nielson Norman group has put out some of the findings from their recent exhaustive study on web user behavior using reliable eye-tracking technology.

The results of their findings? Not good for the banner advertising industry.

The group’s research shows that users consume websites in an “F” shaped pattern, focusing intensely on the content (or regions where content is typically found) with only cursory attention paid to navigation elements and almost no awareness on the areas where advertising is usually displayed.

This research dramatically affirms my experience with web advertising, both as a content provider, displaying ads and as an advertiser, looking to generate traffic with banner advertising.

While banner advertising spending has been in decline on percentage since around 1999, It’s actual dollar numbers have been steadily rising, and fueled by web 2.0 networks and pageviews.

I think this is money wasted and a serious problem for content providers online.

The assumption is that if you create great content, get tons of viewers, and sell a bunch of ads you can make money online.

Users are reluctant to spend money to access content, often circumventing paid content with torrents or other free access.

Advertisers way well be paying money for eyeballs, but as the Nielson study shows us, they are not actually getting these views.

So how does a business promote online?

Podcasting and Online Video Content (OVC)

I come from the Seth Godin school of marketing, stating loosely, that marketing is all about trust and relationships and gaining permission from the audience…and this cannot be bought.

The boom of Podcasting and OVC has created infinite content options for audiences. Gone are the days of consuming media because it is what is popular or what the network provides. We can now go out and find exactly what we want and consume it when we want it.

So how is this better for advertisers?

Self-directed
The user has taken the time and effort to select this content, download it, and has blocked out a part of their day to consume it. They are much less likely to be distracted or their at random.

Targeted
Because audiences can get anything they want, what they are consuming is exactly right for them. if someone is listening to a show on men’s issues, they are interested in men’s issues…period. They are not there because it fits in their timeslot or they have nothing else to do. Advertisers with content related to men’s issues have a built in, near 100% targeted market.

Captive Audiences
Audio and video content is linear, where webpages are not. Users are guided through the story or conversation by the podcaster, with no real ability or desire to skip around. Webpages are much easier to selectively consume and bounce away from.

Trust
Podcasters and OVC creators are establishing a rapport with their audience. They become trusted authorities on the subject matter and editors of the content for the audience. A trust relationship is formed, and the endorsement from a trusted person carries a lot more weight than a random banner.

So why is it so hard to sell ads or promo’s in podcasts?

As a podcast producer, I am amazed sometimes at the reluctance or undervaluation of podcast advertising and promotion. I think it is simply still on the leading edge. Many advertisers or companies do not yet understand the technology. Podcast audiences tend to be tech heavy early adopters, a demographic not in alignment with many businesses. All of this is changing.

Banner advertising is not going to go away, the market for online promotion is merely diversifying, albeit at an exponentially rapid rate.

Podcasting and Online Video Content are opening up new and more efficient possibilities for promotion and refining promotional campaign effectiveness. This study is further proof that the time is ripe to shift to these new and more effective promotional opportunities.

Casey Capshaw is available for consulting on podcasting, new media marketing and business development strategy. email caseycapshaw(at)gmail.com