A Google Declaration of Independence

A Google Declaration of Independence

: Google announced today that it is lowering the price it pays to content sites for the AdSense ads it places there. Advertisers have been demanding this and they’re getting it.

Mind you, Google still does not make clear to the sites on which it places ads what share of the revenue they’re getting. Now they’ll just get less. And there’s nothing they can do about it.

Rafat Ali at PaidContent says this “shows what I have belived in: contextual ads are overblown, in terms of effectiveness…Google AdSense is not a business model for publishers in the long run. Period.” Well he’s half right.

AdSense is not a path to success for online publishers — whether big guys or bloggers — because the program isn’t terribly effective and because they are hostage to Google, as this move proves.

But I do believe that contexual ads are quite effective. The problem with AdSense is that the ad placement is barely contextual; it’s coincidental: If a word like “host” happens to appear on a page, then Google plops a web hosting ad there. That’s about as low on the ad value chain as you can get.

Look at Fred Wilson’s blog. Fred is an influential venture capitalist who sometimes mentions RSS so AdSense slaps RSS ads on his page and he gets a few, very few bucks (which, by the way, he donates to charity). What a waste. If Fred used Henry Copeland’s BlogAds, people could use his site to reach an amazing audience of VCs, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives. If I were, say, a venture lawyer, I’d pay big bucks through BlogAds to reach that audience.

And that is just the beginning. If we in citizens’ media can get our collective act together, we can offer marketers so much more value than Google does on our sites. That is Topic A at the Bloggercon session I’m putting together at Making Blogs Make Money: Start by cataloguing the value we provide. We offer not just word coincidences; we offer not just context; we offer relationships and trust. I’ve talked with three big-media machers recently about how they can underwrite blogs appropriate to their products and through that they can sell subscriptions, extend their reach, promote their brands, build a relationship. That’s just one example. I hope that everyone will come to Bloggercon armed with a list of the ways that blogs can bring value to marketers or make money directly (by selling art or books or even content). Then I hope we will look at what it means to get our act together (what do have to have to do this: statistics, networks, standards…?).

Mind you, I’m grateful that Google’s AdSense has done some very important things: It proved that you can advertise effectively on content created by citizens and not get cooties and, conversely, it proved to bloggers that they can take advertising and not get scabies.

But we can provide more value and get more value than we do through AdSense and we need to have alternatives.

We need to get our act together to declare our advertising independence from Google.