USA Today looks at how Google's AdSense program has grown to help publishers make money: Google's AdSense a bonanza for some Web sites. I get to be one of the voices not seeing things as so rosy.
For one, I note that AdSense is an area where Google goes off its core mission of organizing the world's information. In other words, AdSense doesn't help you in your search quest. That's nothing new to my readers. I said the same thing when the program launched in 2003.
Huh? If you missed the whole AdWords changes into AdSense metamorphosis last year, my More On Mixing Contextual & Search Spending post explains that more. When I say AdSense, I still mean the AdSense contextual ads -- as do most people I talk with, including Google's own advertisers and publishers.
Chris Pirillo's quote does a better job of explaining the traditional Google argument of how AdSense helps search. But funding publishers, they can make better content. That increases the odds that if we look for things, we'll find what we need.
To me, it's a stretch. By that argument, Google ought to be giving away free web hosting, paying people directly to write content and other things. OK, so Google's Blogger is a form of free web hosting and Google Answers does pay people to write content. I stay steadfast that AdSense still isn't part of the core mission of organizing information. It's about extending the ad reach Google has, so it can earn a lot of money given that there's not enough search inventory to go around.
That's not a bad thing -- it's just is the biggest thing you can point at if you want to say Google isn't all about search, for a company that as I wrote back in 2003, painted itself into that particular corner.
Meanwhile, AdSense turned Google into usurping Amazon from having the web's largest affiliate program. Before AdSense, blogs and other content sites mentioned in the story would have depended often on Amazon links for a paltry pay-out for the work they do. Now Google is the major moneybags -- which brings along another major problem, spam.
The irony is deep. Google, by paying publishers, fuels an incredible amount of search spam -- pages that are simply created with no other purpose other than to get search traffic, show AdSense ads and make the site owners money. The story addresses this, and Google responds that it does try to stamp it out, but the problem remains.
Somewhere between existing sites and spam is something like Michael Buffington's asbestos blog experiment. He decided to build a blog around asbestos because of the large amount of money advertisers after mesothelioma victims are willing to pay.
I don't know the area, and maybe it will evolve into a useful new resource. But was it driven out of a need for searchers or out of a desire to make money? Buffington's honest:
The second part of this big experiment is to see if I can capture some of that click through revenue while still providing a somewhat valid service to people who might arrive by search results.
So thank you AdSense and Google. You've directly inspired the creation of content that maybe we didn't really need but which wants to earn off your search results. In some cases, that will be good. Believe me, as someone who started as a self-publisher, I love that AdSense is out there to help others. But in some other cases -- I suspect a lot of them -- the content isn't going to be that great.
Meanwhile, I've written earlier that Yahoo wants to compete with Google in the space more heavily. More fuel to those rumors (more like confirmed open secret) from News.com: Yahoo seeks to expand in Google territory.