So, the story on the “downside of Google Adsense” just
came out over at OJR. You remember I mentioned it in
I was thinking this was gonna be another one of those contrarian stories in the media, and it is. You know, the ones
where some big fat editor wearing suspenders and a dirty white shirt at some big newspaper comes marching into the
newsroom chomping on a beatup cigar bark to a group of underling reports “yeahhh, yeahhh, yeahhh…. but what’s the
downside??! Give me the downside… give me the other side of the talble. Ya see, it can’t be all roses and champagne.
Get me the dirt and get it on my desk by 8pm tonight.”
That’s certainly an exaggeration, but I’m fleshing out some characters for my screenplay so give me some breathing
room here ok?
Sometimes there is not downside. Sometimes the downside is so tiny that it really isn’t worth doing a story on the
“the downside of INSERT HOT TOPIC HERE.”
In this case the four “huge” downsides listed for Google Adsense are:
1. Sometimes an advertisement may match up in an odd way with your content that could be embarrassing.
2. People with low traffic sites don’t do so well.
3. People with sites that don’t have a specific them don’t have great targeting.
4. Sometimes your competitors might come up on your website.
As my friend Xeni is prone to say “Well, duh?!?!”
First, the audiece doesn’t really care if something inapproriatly targeted comes up. Users are smart, they get that
this is not perfect technology, and they appreciate that it *tries* to give them something closer to what their looking
for. This is non-issue. The people who would write a letter to the editor about something like this are the people who
write a letter to editor about a fur advertisement being on the page across from a story about PETA (i.e.
Second, people with low traffic sites are never going to do so well”they don’t have traffic! Google Adsense or display
advertising isn’t going to solve the problem that advertisers are not going to jazzed up about 500 people a day coming
to a site (unless you’re a publication about yachts perhaps). So, again, this has nothing to do with Google
Third, and speaking of Xeni, Boingboing is the perfect example of a website that might not get good response from
Google Adsense since their subject matter is so wonderfully eclectic. Well, that also holds true of their display
advertising as well! Anyone who advertisers on Boingboing is doing so because they are a very sophisticated advertisers
who really likes and understands BoingBoing’s eclectic content and their savvy audience. That’s not some major failure
of Google Adsense, it’s a fact of life for any publisher who decides to do an estectic-based publication over a
vertical- or audience-based publication. There are not advertisers associated with each of the great little items
boingboing discovers on the fringe. Boingboing has to work a little harder to get advertisers, but once they get those
advertisers they are going to be very, very loyal to the brand primarily because they took the time to understand
Here is the test: Describe what Boingboing is about in 10 seconds. OK, now tell me what Autoblog is about in 10
second. OK, well, that is how advertising is bought and sold in 90% of the cases. If you have a brand that is unique it
can also be hard for an advertisers to pin down. The harder it is to explain the content or the audience then the
harder it is to land advertising. That’s publishing 101, and it has nothing to do with some failure of Yahoo or
Fourth, on the competitive issue the author says “But these are the type of glitches that are easily reported to
Google or Yahoo, or fixed through filtering ” as long as you can keep up with all the pages served.”
That final part about having to “keep up” is wrong. Anyone who users Google Adsense knows about the competitive filter
feature where you simply put in the URLs of your competitors. Nobody has more then a dozen or two major competitors.
Excluding them takes less then 15 minutes. To do so you just sit there and go http://www.nytimes.com, hit return and then type
the name of your next competitors website before saving you list of banned sites. You do *not* have to keep up with
advertisements as they are being server”that is just not how it works. Also, having your competitors on your site is
wonderful. I’d love to take Nick Denton’s money if he wants to promote Gizmodo or Jalopnik on Engadget or
Autoblog (seriously, that would feel great!).
Now, I don’t want to seem like I work for Google or Yahoo, but I am in business with these folks and I work with them
on an hourly basis”yes hourly. Every time I see these stories about the “downside of Google Adsense” I just shake my
head and laugh. Of the four major points brought up in this story two have nothing to do with Google Adsense”they are
the basic challenges of publishing (points 2&3). The other two are total non-issues (points 1&4).
This is the perfect example of a story that didn’t need to be written. A non-story, and Mark does sort of say that
towards the end. So, in some ways it’s a good story because it admits that there isn’t a huge issue here.
The real story, from where I sit, is the fact that there are 100-150 decently funded 3rd party ad networks out there
fighting it out for space on publishers websites and that these companies are going to consolidate down to five or 10
companies are all going to be part of Yahoo, Google, or Microsoft in the next 6-24 months”or they will go out of
business. No doubt in my mind. It is too fragmented of a market to support this many players. A publisher like us can
manage five of these relationships. Frankly, we would rather have two or three. On the other side of the table
advertisers can only deal with a dozen of these companies as well. That spells one thing to me: massive consolidation.
If I was a venture capitlist I would do a rollup of the top 10 ad networks, get it up to 100-250M in revenues and then
take it public or sell it to Google, Yahoo, etc. How come no one is writing about the saturation of the ad network
space?! That’s the real story here.
Sorry Mark, I love your work but on this story you’re chasing a ghost”the real story is 15 degrees to the left. At
least you didn’t bring up the non-issue of click fraud. 🙂
Some other folks have been talking about this story: