Sharing the Wealth...Is Contextual Advertising the New Gold Rush for Content Providers?

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Ads, Ads, Everywhere
Another possible downside to the monstrous popularity of this format is sheer clutter. At best, ubiquitous contextual ads may become as invisible to jaded users as the banner ad became by, what, 1999? At worst, these ads might also cannibalize the effectiveness of the more lucrative ad units and sponsorships that publishers sell directly to clients. "Publishers run a huge risk," says Goodman. "I tend to think that publishers' instincts tend to be wrong, and they usually clutter their pages more than they should."

For now, most sites see no problem; CTRs on other ads are not suffering. Switchboard's Canon says, "That's one of the things that convinced us this was a benign form of advertising." At, the display ads continue to work as branding vehicles, while the new text links serve a visitor's retail needs. Berkowitz says that CTRs and revenues from his Overture ads continue to grow month to month.

With most of these programs just ramping up in recent months, it is too early to tell whether contextual ads represent another passing Web fad or a permanent new revenue stream for content. Fast as the format is spreading, few publishers seem worried about ad-link overkill. If anything, the proliferation of keyword links onto content pages is suggesting to some providers that more may be more online. "The Internet is a hypertext medium that, in part, embraces clutter," says Berkowitz. "I reject the notion that clutter is an issue. Clutter is something to be organized and embraced. I don't think that, from a user's standpoint, contextual ads can't have a home on every one of our pages." says Berkowitz. At the rate these programs are going, contextual ads may become as familiar as a Web site's Home button.

Companies Featured in This Article
CBSMarketWatch, Inc.
Switchboard, Inc.  

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