The CPM gap

Ads online typically cost $5 to $20 for one thousand impressions. A fancy magazine might cost two or three times that. But it's still pennies a person.

Attending a conference, on the other hand, costs $1000 by the time you add up the expenses. That's a CPM of $1,000,000. One thousand of the right people at the right conference costs a million dollars, as opposed to $12 for the same thousand people online.

That seems nuts. Same people, radical difference in price. Apples and oranges. It's not a valid comparison because one is about ads and interruptions, the other is from the point of view of the conference organizer or the attendee awash in attention and connection…

Here's the thing: advertisers treat prospects online as targets, as victims, as people to subject to interruption. Conferences treat attendees as royalty, as paying customers who invested time and money to be there.

And that's the difference. As long as your site is about something else and the ads are a distraction, you'll see CPM rates drop. As soon as you (or the advertisers) figure out that creating online communities aligned with the advertising, where attendance is a choice by the consumer, then you're creating genuine value.

The irony is that advertisers continue to push media people to create the very environments that don't work. They want a bigger M and a lower C.

Far more useful for everyone to do the opposite. Pay a lot and get more than you pay for.