Digital Semantics: One Man’s Banner Is Another Man’s Display Ad

I’m confused by this bit of news from MediaWeek: will roll out a sweeping redesign that encapsulates what publisher and general manager Charlie Tillinghast called “a major rethinking of what a news site is.” At the heart of that redesign is a philosophy that Web pages needn’t be text centric, and that Web ads should be large and not relegated to the periphery. “We don’t start with the premise that this is a newspaper online,” said Tillinghast. “In the past we’ve bolted on video and photos and commentary to text pages. Now all of those elements are equal.”
But even more radical is’s decision to no longer serve banner ads, long the Web industry’s bread and butter. “The banner is dead on our site,” said Tillinghast. “They’ve become too commoditized,” particularly when they are served every time a user clicks to a new page, no matter how quickly they depart or whether they even see the whole page. But the new is designed to be anti-page view to bring more content to the surface and require far less navigation by users.

I’m confused because there’s a huge Cadillac ad on’s home page and more banners from Caddy on the sidebar.
Seattle’s technology news source, TechFlash, says “the new design wipes out 97 percent of the banner ads that once appeared on the site. In their place, has rolled out advertisements that are embedded on single story pages and that appear around interactive content such as video and timelines.”
So, the banner is not, in fact, “dead on the site,” as it’s publisher and general manager claims.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.