Google Opens RSS Ads to Publishers

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-05-17

Google Opens RSS Ads to Publishers

NEW YORK—Google expanded its test program for RSS advertising to a broad set of publishers Tuesday as it seeks to gain an ad foothold in syndication feeds.

During the Syndicate Conference here, a Google executive launched the public beta of AdSense for feeds.

The program extends to RSS and Atom feeds the popular pay-per-click ads that appear on publisher Web sites in Googles AdSense network.

The RSS ad launch follows a pilot test that Google began last month.

By moving its sponsored listings into feeds, Google wants to remove a common fear among some publishers that they will lose advertising revenue as readers subscribe to feeds rather than reading content on Web sites, said Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for AdSense.

"What we would like to do is change that and have the monetization occur in the context of the feed itself," he said.

Googles news comes as other online ad networks and search engines experiment with the model for incorporating paid links into what had started as an advertising-free medium.

Among those is top competitor Yahoo Inc., which, so far, has conducted limited tests of placing ads in feeds.

For its program, Google is displaying the text-based sponsored listings as images within individual posts in feed in order to make sure the ads are compatible with various formats of RSS and the hundreds of aggregators and news readers used to view feeds, Ghosemajumder said.

To deliver the ads in feeds, Google is using the same contextual analysis technology its uses to display AdSense ads on sites, Ghosemajumder said.

In fact, it is analyzing the full text of articles and posts from Web sites themselves in order to prevent only analyzing part of a post. Thats because different RSS feeds display posts differently. Some publishers syndicate the full text of posts, while others only provide excerpts.

Click here to read about other ways Google is branching out sponsored listings.

Attendees and panelists at the Syndicate Conference had mixed reactions to Googles entry into RSS advertising, though most agreed that it will likely spur more rapid adoption of advertising in feeds.

"Googles ramping up is definitely in direct response to the fact that this medium is maturing," said Greg Gershman, the president and founder of Blogdigger, an RSS and blog search service.

"I like the fact that it is giving an incentive to create better content by creating a revenue model."

Next Page: Questioning the approach.

Questioning the Approach

Still, executives from other companies involved in RSS advertising questioned whether Googles model of extending AdSense contextual ads to RSS is the best approach.

"The issue I believe the big guys face is that Google is still trying to use its existing contextualization, and it is not storing the subscription history," said Scott Rafer, president and CEO of Feedster Inc.

Rafer said that context in RSS feeds involves more than the text of particular post. What also matters is the overall content focus of a feed and the reason why readers have subscribed to it.

Feedster has started its own online advertising network called the Feedster Media Network.

Last week, it announced that ad agency Starcom Worldwide had chosen to deliver Sun Microsystems Inc.s first RSS ad campaign through Feedster.

Click here to read about Feedsters earlier RSS steps and the debate over feed-based ads.

But to Ghosemajumder, the feed medium actually helps Google with targeting because users are able to cut out the clutter that typically appears on a Web site and focus exclusively on the content of an article.

"It benefits from the highly structured nature of the feeds themselves," he said of AdSense for feeds. "Youre more focused on the content, and there is less distraction there."

To join the beta, Google is requiring publishers to complete an application to participate in the beta. It is following the same content restrictions as it follows for AdSense generally, Ghosemajumder said.

In other RSS advertising news from Syndicate, Blogdigger plans to announce Wednesday that it will begin including its first advertising posts in RSS feeds that it generates.

Blogdigger, of Baltimore, Md., is moving into advertising as part of the launch of a local search features. Users of the service now can search by 50,000 city names or ZIP codes to return the results of blogs and feeds from a specific geography, Gershman said.

Blogdigger also plans to add the ability to search by latitude and longitude coordinates worldwide.

It is basing its search results on the location of a blogger and not references in articles to specific cities by tapping into geocoding data or other information provided by the publisher, Gershman said.

Users can also create RSS feeds of their local searches. In those feeds, Blogdigger will be adding advertisements as separate posts and is initially partnering with Whizspark Corp. to inserts ads about local events, Gershman said.

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