My first job out of college was selling advertising space in a low-quality lifestyle magazine that has since dissolved (we all had to start somewhere). We were trained to sell on the basis of our ridiculously high distribution and that our CPM (cost per thousand - a standard way to evaluate the true cost of your advertising) was very low compared to our competition. High distribution + Low cost = Value. The problem I faced when I went into meetings is that people saw right through it. One person actually told me, "There's no way I would look through this magazine. It's garbage. I don't care how much it costs - it's not worth it." Even though the metrics were compelling, once you saw the product it was understood that the results simply would not exist.
Many people face this delima when looking at pay-per-click (PPC) advertising - a popular "ad" on a page (maybe you have some on your blog) that once someone clicks - the advertiser is charged and the publisher is paid. One issue with PPC is the heightened potential for scams called click-frauds where clicks are made with the intention of getting a payment rather than purchasing the product.
Google is experimenting with a new type of advertising called "cost-per-action" that takes the PPC model one step further - you'd only pay for an "action" that you define (like a file download, purchase, registration, etc.) For a New York Times article explaining Google's cost-per-action model, click here.
If the magazine I worked for had implemented this model I could imagine the changes that would need to take place. There would be a push for higher-quality, better research, and fierce follow-up on which campaigns worked. I applaud Google for this initiative because it removes yet another piece of the "sleazy advertising" stigma. Advertising is a viable way to get your message out to millions and soon, it may be more cost-effective than ever.