The Wall Street Journal today profiled the implications of ads in books.
Even though periodicals like the New Yorker and the Atlantic have printed ads alongside serious fiction and nonfiction since their founding, purists will surely decry ads in books. But historically, the lack of advertising in books has had less to do with the sanctity of the product and more to do with the fact that books are a lousy medium for ads. Ads depend on volume and timeliness to work, and books don’t provide an opportunity for either.
Authors Ron Adner and my friend Will Vincent are right to point out that historically books have not been a great medium for advertising, but looking forward it is very likely that shorter form content and particularly mixed media content, such as Vooks, are going to be a very different experience. Leaving fiction entirely aside for the time being, it’s easy to see that a lot of instructional non-fiction content will lend itself to sponsorship and advertising — particularly as the audience is targeted and the ads will be engaging and interactive. Like it or not, there ARE products out there which make sense to have featured.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that 5 minute long infomercials, like the one below are fitting content. But artfully done, ads can be seamlessly blended into content and give publishers another revenue stream.