Online ads are finally making serious cash

With people spending more time than ever online, it would make sense for advertisers to go where the eyeballs are. But the Internet has generally lagged far behind older mediums such as television when it comes to garnering big ad dollars. However, new data out of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicates that online ads are beginning to enter the financial big leagues.

In the first half of 2011, Internet ad revenues rose to a record $14.9 billion, according to new data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC. The rate of growth was 23.2 percent, more than doubling the 11.3 percent growth rate that online ad revenues had in the first half of 2010.

The data also shows that growth is continuing to pick up as 2011 rolls on. Ad revenues for the second quarter of 2011 increased 24.1 percent from the year-ago quarter to $7.7 billion. For comparison, the second quarter of 2010 saw 13.9 percent growth.

And while the Internet is still a ways from attracting Super Bowl ad money, the biggest growth area for online ads is televisionlike content: online video. Digital video ad revenues brought in $891 million during the first half of 2011, representing a growth rate of a whopping 42.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Now that big firms such as Nielsen have directed their full attention to monitoring how people spend time online, advertisers are finally getting comfortable investing more of their budgets in Internet ads. The current growth rates of online ad revenues are certainly impressive, but this could very well be just the beginning.