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👆 Leon Paternoster

The end of The Deck

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A couple of months ago, Coudal Partners announced the end of The Deck, a web advertising service established back in 2006. In turn, several well known web design/writers wrote warm obituaries.

The Deck positioned itself away from mainstream online advertising. It didn’t track users with javascript or cookies, and the ads themselves were “tasteful”, consisting of a small image, short text and a link to the advertiser’s landing page. Perhaps most importantly, it operated in a small, fertile designer market and had personal contacts within that market (early beneficiaries were Daring Fireball and kottke.org)

Coudal cited three reasons for pulling the plug:

  • Advertisers started to concentrate on large, walled, social networks (e.g. Facebook)
  • Advertisers wanted to track user activity once their ad had been served
  • Readers moving to mobile, which resulted in less clicks

These adverse factors seem self-evident. But I wonder if there’s another, simpler reason for The Deck’s demise: the small, fertile market Coudal operated in has now gone. For example, if you were into web design in 2010 you could list the sites you’d visit for information and discussion: iA.net, 37 Signals, Inspiration Bit, Jon Tan, Dan Mall, Jason Santa Maria, subtraction.com etc. Most these sites still exist, but we can now reach for hundreds of standardised frameworks and tools when we want to build something; we don’t necessarily need the individual, handcrafted approach. We’ve all become better at building things on the web.

Even more simply: there are lots of new designers and writers out there. The Deck was simply of its time. As Coudal says: things change.