Kanoodle.com Battling Google for Contextual Ads

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-03-15 Print this article Print

A team displaced by a Google acquisition is now helping the smaller search provider revive a competitive Internet ad service.

The former executives of a company acquired last year by Google Inc. are reviving their approach for matching advertisers with the most relevant Web content. The executives from Sprinks Inc., which Google bought in October, are renewing their competition in the market for contextual ads now that they have joined smaller paid-search provider Kanoodle.com Inc. Since their December move to Kanoodle.com, the trio—Lance Podell, president; Doug Perlson, senior vice president, partner development and operations; and Mark Josephson, senior vice president, marketing and business development—has launched a Sprinks-like sponsored-listings service called ContextTarget. Kanoodle.com has signed up such major sites as MarketWatch.com Inc., The Motley Fool Inc. and Intuit Inc.s Quicken.com for the service.
Their next step is to expand that contextual listings offering to a wider array of publishers. In the second quarter of this year, Kanoodle.com plans to offer an automated version of ContextTarget to Web publishers, not unlike Googles AdSense program that puts its AdWords sponsored links alongside Web content, Josephson said.
Google officials were not available to discuss the companys future plans for its Sprinks acquisition, but the company did confirm that it is not currently using any of the products or technology acquired from Sprinks. Company officials, in past interviews, said that former Sprinks customers were offered Googles AdWords and AdSense programs. Click here to read more about how Google is facing a trademark infringement lawsuit over its keyword-based search ads. Kanoodle.com, of Amherst, N.Y., is trying to differentiate its approach much the way Sprinks did before Google bought, then shuttered, it. ContextTarget, and its upcoming expansion, determines the placement of ads on the bidding for particular content categories rather than on keywords in the content, Josephson said. Kanoodle.com maps the table of contents of partner sites to build its categories and match appropriate ads, he explained. The automated program will use the same approach but more dynamically map Web publishers pages to ContextTargets categories. "The way we look at the world is that the Googles of the world are great search companies that are trying to put the same model on ads," Josephson said. Kanoodle.com already had offered a keyword-based paid search program called KeywordTarget, where advertisers bid on key terms in search queries to trigger sponsored results. Kanoodle.coms push into contextual advertising doesnt just pit it against Google. Other major search advertising providers are expanding into the space, including Yahoo Inc.s Overture division. But Josephson said Kanoodle.com is directly tackling the problem of better targeting contextual ads to a Web pages content. Take a financial news story about the Boeing Co.s earnings on a Web page. A keyword-based approach might place sponsored links about general aviation topics like jet repair alongside the story, while ContextTargets category approach would place sponsored links to Boeing research reports or stock news coverage, he said. "We come from a publisher background and really understand that this is about relevancy and revenue and honoring the integrity of editorial," Josephson said. Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews, analysis and opinion about productivity and business solutions. Be sure to add our eWEEK.com enterprise applications news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page:  
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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