John Battelle posted an interesting article about web advertising today . The basic idea is that publishers (web site owners) would be able to pick any ad they wanted at random, add it to a web page and start getting paid for clicks.
To me this is similar to what ad networks like Commission Junction’s CJ Marketplace offer. Here you can choose your ad from a large variety and start using it.
In response to some comments, John argues that affiliate programs aren’t viral, but I think they are. When I’m looking for ads to place on a site a surf similar sites and see what ads they have on their sites. If I like them I’ll see where they got the ads from.
The biggest problem I see with John’s idea of publishers grabbing ads “in the wild” and placing them on their sites is getting paid. To get paid you’d have to be registered somewhere, and that’s what the ad networks bring to the table.