From the Netslaves Archives: The Agony of Pre-Google Web Publishing
It seems that few remember how difficult it was for small Web publishers to survive a few years ago. Unless you had enormous traffic, and by this I mean on the order of 250,000 monthly page views, big ad networks such as DoubleClick wouldn't touch you. Many web publishers were forced to deal with affiliate ad brokers such as EFront, which treated them badly.
Google's AdSense program, which launched in June 2003, provided a virtual lifeline for publishers, and is an important factor in terms of creating today's content renaissance. It's also been a tremendous success for Google, which relies on this contextual network to provide about 40 percent of its online advertising revenues. Without AdSense, Web 2.0 would have been unthinkable, and while Adsense isn't perfect (look around this page and you'll probably see lots of ads which could be targeted much better than they are), it's really the only way for small publishers to keep on publishing. Few of these publishers will ever get rich, but at least Adsense pays for the hosting bills, a couple of gallons of gas, and perhaps a weekly pizza or two, which is more than enough to keep many niche publishers going.
People love to bitch about Adsense (both publishers and marketers who believe that Google's contextual network is subject to higher levels of click fraud than on its own properties). Again, it's not perfect and may never will be. But it's vastly improved the lot of publishers, created more opportunities for diversity in the idea-stream, and in the long run may be judged to be Google's most important contribution to the general health of the World Wide Web.
But one can only see how healthy today's Web is by looking back at how desparately bad things were a few years ago. Content sites were dropping like flies, crooked ad broker companies were cheating publishers, and everybody was broke. No document better illustrates this dire situation than Webzines, eFront, and the Death of Dreams, an article written in March of 2001 by Netslaves contributor Emily K. Dresner-Thornber. Things weren't just bad in 2001, they were rotten to the core; she writes:
This is the crux of the death of the dream: people trying hard to make their passions a reality in a new medium with no editorial control, no old boy's club, no Ivy League mind-games, and no limits. While they work on their passions, other people openly and shamelessly take advantage of them. Sites are being co-opted and shut down for the minor sin of saying something bad about the advertising provider. It is a return to the same old American dream, full of shysters, scum, liars, and people ready to use other people for a quick buck. The Internet has become just like any other business in the world.
Thank God Google Adsense saved us from these awful people, saving a small but vital part of the American Dream for all of us.