I was recently turned on (from Brave Men Run author, Matthew Wayne Selznick‘s blog) to a really interesting program for web publishers and blog owners that should really appeal to the eBay crowd. I know that I am about to sound pretty glowing so I figured I would let you know that I am not getting any referral credit for this, I am just really excited about this idea.

The idea behind Project Wonderful is pretty simple. You designate ad space on your blog or website. They give you quite a few size options and also give you the chance to fit multiple smaller ads into a single space. They also let you customize the appearance of your ads (color, footer placement, etc) and set tags and keywords for your site. Then, once the ad space is set up, you activate the ad space.

Now here comes the part that you are going to like. Once the ad space is activated, you make it available for bidding in what they call a Infinite Auction. You can set a minimum (reserve price if you will) price per day that you are willing to take or just start bidding at $0 and see where things go. Buyers bid not only on what they wish to pay per day but also how long they wish to make that offer apply for. It’s like a Dutch Auction for your ad space.

They have a great, illustrated, explanation of this here but, essentially, bidding works just like Proxy Bidding on eBay. The advertiser’s bid is only high enough to beat any other bids in effect. Even if you bid $5 a day, if my minimum is set to $0.01 a day and there are no other bids, you only pay the 1 penny until someone else bids.

But what I really like about Project Wonderful is that you can decide what space on your site is worth. If you don’t want a banner ad on your site unless it brings in $5 a day, then you set that as a minimum and you only have to run an ad if you get that price. Then, naturally, if your site is popular, there is always the chance to make more than that $5 a day as people bid the price up.

On the advertisers end, ad campaigns are flexible and you get to see the statistics of the sites you advertise on as well as how your ad campaign is performing. There are also quite a few sites with inexpensive ads of around 1 penny a day where you could start running your ad right now for 30 cents a month. You design your own banner ads (or text ads if you prefer) and can also set up campaigns across similar keyword sites. Even if you are outbid, your ad will still show up on the site later when that higher bid ends. I did a quick search and saw a couple of blogs and sites I want to try running some cheap ads on to see what they do. I like the fact that you can buy targeted ads for so little to be able to experment with different things without having too much of a commitment financially.

For publishers, the biggest advantage is that your margin for profit is much higher than with Google Adsense or other similar sites where you are at the mercy of clicks. The more attention and traffic you get, the more money your ad space gets. If you have a popular site, prospective advertisers can drive the price of ad space on your site up with competition.

Also, payout for ad revenue starts at $10 or you can use the money you make from the ads running on your site to buy advertising for yourself on the site.

After doing a little reading, I just had to try this out for myself. (I know, you aren’t surprised.) I set up four square sized ads on the Jim Cummings fan site I run (The Cult of Cummings) and four ads on this site as an experiment. Set-up was very simple. My only complaint is that Project Wonderful searches for the code on the single page you give them so, on a WordPress blog, it’s impossible to, say, sell add space on all single view pages. This is not a dealbreaker, but I was disappointed to discover this.

You also, as a publisher, have control over the ads that show on your site. You can either opt to approve each one individually or approve them automatically based on their content rating (for instance, I don’t accept ads for any site marked Not Safe For Work or NSFW). You can also veto certain ads and contact your ad bidders if need be.

Now, obviously, as I just set this up a few hours ago, Project Wonderful has no traffic stats set-up for either site yet so my ad space is going to be a hard sell to strangers until they set that up. However, since I was eager to try this out, I decided to start bidding on all of my ads at $0. Meaning, if you are quick, you can advertise on either this or my Cult of Cummings site right now completely for free. If someone has beat you to the free ads by the time you get there, you can bid a mere 1 cent a day and outbid them for the space. But at the time that I am writing this, the ad space is still totally free so be sure to take advantage of it while its there. If nothing else, it will allow you to get a feel for how the Project Wonderful works and get some free marketing in.

As it is only the first day with this program, I cannot speak for it’s long term applications but I really like what I have seen so far from the angle of a web publisher as well as a web advertiser. As with everything, I want to try it out for a little while and see how it goes, but it seems like a much more imaginative and potentially profitable way of monetizing your blog.

Aren’t you proud that I didn’t make any Project Wonderful is Wonderful gags? ­čśë

(If you want to see what Project Wonderful ads look like, there are some on this site right now. Since they will just look like banner ads if they are taken by the time you look at this, I just want to give you a heads up that the Project Wonderful ads on this site are a single half banner on the right hand side of the page (under the flying Twitter birdie) and 3 square boxes on the left under the Archive. If you click the link underneath either of these spaces, you will be taken to the page where you can either claim the free adspace or start bidding to put your ad there. Before any ads are purchased, they show as large white banners that say, “Your Ad Here.” On the Cult of Cummings site, they are 4 square ads on the right hand navbar.)