Monday, March 20, 2006

When AdSense goes bad

Eva Dominguez at Poynter Online writes about embarrassingly poorly targeted Google AdSense ads on some news stories:
Occasionally AdSense delivers unfortunate results when ads are inappropriate to the news.

Yesterday in Spain, the ombudsman of El Pais wrote of an online reader's complaint concerning the Google ads that ran alongside an article on immigrant trafficking, "The jump from the boat to the pirogue." This story reported how traffickers are increasing the size and power of their boats in order to earn more money.

Unfortunately, the adjacent Google ads touted mortgages for immigrants, European boat rentals and services for canoeists.

Online audiences are accustomed to the irony sometimes caused by automatic ad delivery -- but this case was especially annoying.
Uh, right, a news story on immigrant trafficking should not show ads that might be of interest to immigrant traffickers. Oopsie, wrong target audience there.

So, what ads should be shown?

We should try to show ads that target the type of people who read this kind of news story. The ads do not have to be about the news story, but they need to be likely to be interesting and useful to readers of this news story.

Contextual advertising does not do this. It is too literal. If a page is about immigrant trafficking, the ads will be about immigrant trafficking.

Findory has one approach at solving this problem. The personalized advertising engine at Findory targets AdSense ads not only to the content of the page, but also to what other Findory content has been interesting to the reader.

This allows Findory's advertising both to be deeper -- recognizing that one reader of a story about Yahoo might be interested in search and another reader more interested in advertising tools -- and less likely to be embarrassing -- avoiding ads for fire extinguishers when reading a story about a deadly inferno that killed 7.

Personalized advertising like Findory's is just one approach. We could do other things. Perhaps we might include learning which ads generally work best for articles about "immigrant trafficking", regardless of whether the ads are about that topic. Or, we might try to learn which ads interest the cluster of readers who read this article (or similar articles) on "immigrant trafficking".

Regardless of what path we pick, contextual advertising is not going to be sufficient for news. It works well for search because of the strong intent behind the search keywords. Interest in a news story shows much weaker intent, and we need to expand our search accordingly if we hope to find relevant, useful advertising.


isb said...

I agree that behavioral information would provide more context for ads. However, the bigger problem involves trust - how can the ad provider trust this information given by the publisher? I am assuming Findory has a special arrangement with Google for its personalized adsense technology.

Dimitar Vesselinov said...

What's wrong with AdSense, and Google?

Anonymous said...

Hi Greg, how is Findory able to alter the contextual delivery of Adsense?? I did not realize publishers could build on top of the algorithm as you have to create behavioral advertising on what is sent by GOOGLE as contextual.

Btw great blog, I have just gotten around to going through your archives.

Greg Linden said...

Hi, Rob. Findory is a premium AdSense client, so we are able to alter the keywords for which the ads are targeted. We select keywords based both on the content of the page and each person's reading history.