It has begun. Don’t you hear that? It is the marching on of the great advertising behemoths of the world. It seems that now they are targeting your news reader and web based news aggregators. I can’t say that I am surprised. We all knew that syndicated news feeds would eventually become a medium for marketers to reach a very targeted audience. The question is, will this be done tastefully?
There is no doubt that some people think that all sites should be ad free. I don’t believe that is really an intelligent answer to the question of adding ads to web sites. These are usually the same people that don’t want to pay for the content either. So, how are the content providers to make money? I think advertising definitely has its place as long as it is done in the right way. Google has done a good job of this. Although I would say that I rarely click on one of the infamous Google ads, I have been found on occasion to click the link. Part of the reason is because of how tastefully the ads are placed most of the time. They do not distract from the main content and usually are very targeted to the page I am visiting. I have a sense of achieving a balance with the site I am visiting. I realize that they need to make a living, and I put up with it as long as they don’t throw it in my face.
So, what about ads in news feeds? I always thought it was a bit strange that I could take their content, format it the way I want in my feed reader, and basically have no need for the site and their advertisement. Obviously the content providers see this as a problem. What have they done to correct this? They insert the ad in the feed so you will see it whether you are on their site, or viewing the content in you news reader or aggregator.
I think there is definitely room for abuse of this new advertising medium. Many content providers only provide a snippet of information in the feed in hopes to entice you to visit their actual site. Their is nothing wrong with this practice in general, but when you do this the viewer will see the ads on the main site. So, when you try to add an ad to the feed in this case, it is similar to ‘double dipping.’ Viewers now see the ad in the feed and on the site providing the feed.
On the other hand, when the feed provides the complete content of the article in the feed (as I do on this site), adding an ad to the feed is just recouping the lost views you would have received had the viewer visited the site to read the entire article.
So, I think this boils down to good practice. I can see a future where I might very well add ads into my feed. But, what I would do in that case is probably provide two feeds. One feed would be short excerpts without ads, and the other would be full articles with ads. Most web based news aggregators, such as MXNA 2.0, would probably use the feed without ads. Whereas, if you were using an news reader on your desktop, you might want to use the feed with the full article that contains an ad.
I am curious though, what are your thoughts? Does this seem like a good compromise to you?