Adgator, and a fairer world

I couldn’t help but notice the launch of Adgator today. Firstly I got an email inviting me to join, which I presume went out to all or most blogs signed up on Afrigator.

And, secondly, over at muti, four of the top five posts were about Adgator’s launch. After all, a new ad network is clearly a bigger deal than Obama closing Guantanamo, the “DA re-launching”, or the death of Miriam Makeba. It’s good to know though that all of the above were more notable than a post about holiday beach specials, also on the front page. Fortunately, the fact that this was on the front page says more about muti’s traffic than the skewed priorities of South African bloggers.

The launch of Adgator is good news. Google has always offered bloggers in the most remote locations the potential to earn income simply by providing interesting content. The chance for local advertisers to advertise locally, and for local bloggers to earn locally, without an American company taking a cut and subsidising BushObama, is a big step forward.

Circulating money as locally as possible is one the most important prerequiites for a fairer world, and one of great potentials of the internet.

The giant vacuum cleaner effect of large US/European companies earning effortless revenue from everywhere in the world is one of the most insidious effects of this otherwise highly beneficial burgeoning global community. Credit card companies, Paypal, Skype – the money goes in one direction only. Google actually send some back the other way, but slice a large chunk off on the way. It happens in so many spheres – telecoms, where two Nigerians communicating with each other one building apart have their call routed via Europe, earning money for European telecoms providers. Or in food, where raw cacao is picked, sent to Europe, processed into chocolate bars, and sent back to Africa. Or computers… or just about anything.

The internet breaks this vicious cycle in the easiest way. While producing something like computers may require large investment and equipment, the barrier to entry in the virtual world is much smaller. Primarily, it requires skills, while at the same time the internet is the best means to ensure access to the knowledge required for developing these skills.

Adgator potentially breaks the loop in the online advertising sphere, and does so in a way that on the surface seems to be a great deal for local bloggers – a 50-50 share between Adgator and the blogger.

It’s of course very early stages, and applicants are seemingly manually reviewed, but the signup process could do with some minor improvements. Signing up is very easy, but not quite as friendly as with Google, and the blogger is expected to know the different ad formats they may want to choose for their site without any visual guides. Terms like page peeler, or the relative merits of 468×60 versus 120×600 banners may be second nature to those in the ad industry, but not to me, and I would have appreciated some visual cues.

I also wonder about the model’s long-term sustainability. Bloggers are paid per page impression, rather than per click, as with Google’s model, and are thus incentivised to place the ad at the bottom of the page, where it doesn’t impact readers, rather than the top. Google’s model is of course open to abuse, but it at least incentivises publishers to place the ads in the most visible spot. Advertisers may be less satisfied with the level of response from Adgator’s offering.

It’s also probable that, for readers, the relevance of a Google ad will be higher than an Afrigator ad. Google has fairly sophisticated algorithms, as well as a few million machines, to try and match adverts to the page content. Adgator, although it has collected some useful data through Afrigator, also relies upon the blogger self-categorising themselves. In the case of blogs which are not highly-focused, and whose topics vary from post to post, the relevance may be poor.

It’s an interesting initiative, and I wish them well. It’s unfortunate that the service is only available in South Africa, but the opportunity at least still exists for even more local solutions in other African countries.


  1. Ian, what a great post and thanks for taking the time to even do a post on Adgator. You have been an inspiration to most of us with your vast knowledge of PHP and MySQL and we’ve often stumbled on white-papers or articles by you when we’ve had issues with our database which needed fixing 🙂

    You have some extremely valid points and stuff we’ve thought about quite extensively. I guess we have to admit that we’re not Google – well not yet anyway… so I think we’ve got a long way to go with Adgator to make it a successful endeavour.

    We have a lot of plans in terms of implementation but for now we’re going to keep it as simple as possible and build on top of that.

    I believe that this model will change (probably most rapidly) once we have more experience in the implementation side of things. We are going to learn through experience and I just hope it’s not too painful a learning curve 😉

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