Google Puts RSS Advertising to the Test

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-04-26 Print this article Print

A popular Weblog has begun displaying Google AdSense ads in its syndication feeds as part of what is expected to be a bigger pilot test in coming weeks.

A day after diving into impression-based advertising, Google is expanding its online ad network again by placing contextual ads in XML-based syndication feeds. Google Inc. confirmed Tuesday that it has begun testing the use of its ads in RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, a move that signals the growing interest in earning revenue from news feeds. Google ads began appearing late Monday within about 60 RSS feeds published by the Weblog, publisher Robert McLaws said. Those feeds appear to be the first implementation of a bigger pilot test that Google plans to conduct with select AdSense publisher partners.
A Google spokesman declined to offer details about the test or the companys RSS ad plans. But McLaws said his blog is the first to display the RSS ads and that other sites should begin to participate in the test in another week. "Over the next few weeks, part of the trial is to tune it and make sure the ads are not intrusive," said McLaws, president and chief software architect at Interscape Technologies Inc. Click here to read more about Googles move this week to sell ads based on impressions rather than on clicks. Googles early RSS advertising effort follows a test late last year by competitor Yahoo Inc. Yahoos search marketing division is working with FeedBurner to test the placement of its sponsored links within publishers RSS feeds. "Weve continuing our testing and expanding our testing in RSS," Yahoo spokeswoman Gaude Paez said. "Were looking very seriously at the advertising potential in that medium." Meanwhile, smaller sponsored-links provider Kanoodle Inc. earlier this year launched an RSS advertising program for Web publishers. According to McLaws, Googles RSS advertising pilot grew out of discussions he had with Google salespeople, who approached him almost six months ago about running AdSense ads on his blog. AdSense is the name of Googles ad syndication program, in which partner sites run ads from Googles advertiser network and receive a share of the revenue. Rather than simply run sponsored links on his blog, though, McLaws also wanted ads within his RSS feeds because about 98 percent of his traffic originates from the feeds rather than from direct visits to the blog site, he said. "The site costs money, and the RSS feeds are a bandwidth killer," McLaws said. "I have to pay for it somehow and dont want to charge people to read [RSS]. I want to be able to monetize it in a way that is unobtrusive and, at the very least, takes care of my server costs." McLaws declined to discuss the technical details of how Google is implementing the ads in feeds and said the approach is likely to shift during the testing. But the current Google ads do appear at the bottom of a post, rather than as separate posts interspersed in a feed as has been tried by some publishers. The ads also redirect to a URL that includes a reference to "imageads," presumably related to Googles program for selling image-based ads. Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, 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 Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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