The Verge recently posted an opinion piece that asserts that "The Mobile Web Sucks." It's a rant, to be sure, but it makes some points that I can identify with as a software developer. I think the core bit about the desktop web being awesome and the mobile web sucking (and fostering the app economy) is something I feel. The piece mentions advertising in passing, but it's part of the pain I feel as well.
Before it sounds all whiny, I started the sites first to share content. Then I kept going because it was the path that led to a career in software development. Heck, it's still the way that I keep current, because you rarely get to use the latest tech in your day job. At first I started to make money for fun via advertising, but as the sites got popular I made money to cover the ridiculous costs. I've written about it before, and costs have come down, and mostly I'm content to cover the costs and the stuff like computers, software and cameras that I use to build the stuff.
Still, what's discouraging is that traffic isn't worth what it used to be. Getting paid for what you do I suppose is a kind of validation, and it's especially cool when it's something you do in your spare time or as a hobby. It's hard to put a value on anything transmitted via electronic means these days, which might be the reason that so much of it is crap. The rise of shitty inventory created by sites like BuzzFeed and others cheapens it for everyone.
A part of me believes, and maybe I'm naive, that this is cyclical. The only evidence I have to back it up is that we saw dips in the mid oughts, again as recently as 2012. It's just that this dip seems particularly gross.
Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of what I've stayed with for 17 years now. I was at a wedding early this year where the common thread many of us had was the sites, and that was pretty cool. Trying to figure out ad-supported content as a business is something that I'm glad I don't have to do for a living, because I don't know how we innovate our way out of this declining value. Even if you cover a niche (which in our case, is probably smaller than it was 10 years ago), you're brought down by the larger Internet average.