Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, October 8, 2004

Contextual Advertising On Your Blogsite - Any Limits?

How contextual should advertising be? Could there be instances when contextual ads are inappropriate, from an ethical viewpoint? If you were to write an article on your site about how fluoride in the public water supply might be causing obesity, would you be happy to allow GoogleAds to pop up extolling the virtues of fluoride-based toothpastes for children?

As a counterpoint to yesterday's news item Blog Advertising - Context Is King, an article by Rich Gordon in PoynterOnline on Wednesday October 6 entitled The News Implications of Paid Search provides much food for thought.

In the article, Rich Gordon points to CBS Marketwatch columnist Bambi Francisco's report that in the wake of last week's recall of Merck's arthritis drug Vioxx, law firms have been driving the price of the search engine keyword "Vioxx" to unbelievable heights. Why law firms? They want to attract prospective clients who may be tempted to file a lawsuit against Merck. As I write this piece, Yahoo!'s Overture network is offering a price up to $20 per click, with 22 law firms in the game.

Rich Gordon says:

"I will admit to being a bit conflicted about this. On the one hand, this illustrates the power of keyword-based search ads -- and suggests that news sites could generate considerable revenue by offering news-based search terms independent of Overture and Google. On the other hand, traditional publishers historically have shied away from allowing ads and content that are closely related to appear on the same page. Having lawyers prospect for clients adjacent to an objective news story about Vioxx makes me very uncomfortable."

Google's AdSense program, along with a number of other rapidly developing advertising services for independent publishers offer the real prospect for independent publishers and NewsMasters to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves.

Rich Gordon published a follow-up article yesterday, entitled Ad/Editorial Ethics, Online and In Print in which he describes how print publications have been wrestling for years about the relationship between editorial content and advertising and how they have developed various policies "to address issues such as where ads can be placed, how they should be labeled, and what fonts should and shouldn't be used for advertising. The goal, of course, is to ensure that readers aren't confused about what's editorial and what's advertising."

So, here are three questions for you to consider:

1. Where would you draw the line?

2. How much control over the types of ad that Google or Overture, or any other service provider served up on your site, would you want?

3. Would you want, with the involvement of other independent publishers, to be able to offer news-based search terms independent of Overture and Google et al?

You are strongly urged and warmly invited to get involved and to have your say in this debate, by adding your comments in the boxes below.

These issues are fundamental to the development of a self-sustaining marketplace for every commercially-minded independent publisher and NewsMaster.

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Readers' Comments    
2004-10-08 09:55:30

Sepp Hasslberger

Context is important in advertising but perhaps context alone is not sufficient.

Your point is that an ad can support or counter the arguments presented in an article, and certainly a report that addresses a controversial issue needs more than just simple context for the selection of advertising.

Perhaps one could allow bloggers to "teach" google ad sense or other advertising services in a similar way we teach spam filters. With time, ads would be both "in context" and "on the right side" of the argumentation presented.

I for one have been hesitant to accept ads. Writing about the dangers of modern medicine, it is difficult to find advertising that does not contradict what is said. The further ahead on the cutting edge a blogger is, the more this may be felt as a problem.

posted by on Friday, October 8 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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