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January 26, 2006

Google AdSense begins rich media beta test

Google AdSense is moving beyond the traditional text and graphical advertising to rich media, including interstitials, expanding ads and floating ads. AdSense began contacting publishers last week to be involved in the rich media limited beta test.

The campaigns will likely be site targeted, rather than contextual, but details on the actual implementation of these new ads are still under wraps. With these kind of top-secret beta tests, NDAs are often requirements before being accepted into it.

Floating ads are ads that either stay on top as the page is scrolled, or ones that "float in" from the side of the page to the center of the page. Expanding ads are those that require user interaction to expand, either with a mouseover or a click. Interstitials are perhaps the most interesting addition to this rich media beta, because they are a format that people love to hate, and that are often more annoying than pop-ups. You have likely stumbled across an interstitial ad - they appear when you click through to read a page, and before they will show you the page, you are bypassed through to a full page ad that you must view before seeing the actual content you were wanting, often by having to click a link on the interstitial ad page.

No further details are known about the new rich media beta test, but I will see what I can find out. I can probably safely say that this is an invite-only beta test to which only a small number of publishers were invited to. So emailing the AdSense team for an invite to this beta probably wouldn't work. But the good news is that often beta tests are turned into features that all publishers can utilize, so if you are interested in implementing rich media through AdSense, keep your fingers crossed and it may be added in the future.

This is definitely a departure from the usual text ads as well as the image and Flash ads in standard ad unit sizes that AdSense usually runs. Rich media ads are usually associated with companies such as Fastclick, PointRoll and Falk eSolutions, so the fact that AdSense is making inroads on this territory is quite significant. If AdSense offered rich media to all publishers, it could really hurt competitor companies offering similar rich media ad formats because of the vast number of publishers that AdSense has.

And if AdSense did offer rich media to all publishers, they could easily add a new clause that would mean companies such as Fastclick and PointRoll would suddenly be competitive ads and not be permitted on the same pages as AdSense. Many AdSense publishers implement rich media ads to compliment AdSense, and as non-contextual, most of these ad products are well within the AdSense terms. But if AdSense decided to not permit rich media ads on pages also running AdSense or AdSense rich media style ads, this could mean that many publishers would drop competitor's ads and just show AdSense... as well as those advertisers flocking to AdWords to get their rich media creatives showing through the AdSense program.

In terms of dominating the online advertising market, AdSense rich media could seal the deal to make AdSense the force to be reckoned with, by not only dominating the online text ad and graphical banner-style advertising, but in the entire online advertising market. Definitely a story to watch.

Posted by Jenstar at January 26, 2006 11:39 AM

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Wasn't the selling point of AdSense that the adverts were unobtrusive?

Posted by: Paul Wells at January 26, 2006 12:47 PM

Now they just need to make an option for Link Units to automatically be embedded as hyperlinks on existing words/phrases on the page (I think Clicksor has an option to do this).

Not sure if I would use it myself, but it would be nice to have the option. :)

Posted by: Shawn Hogan at January 26, 2006 01:06 PM

Another hack :http://imol.gotdns.com/staticpages/index.php?page=Andy-Maloney-Geeklog-Software

Posted by: Peril34 at January 26, 2006 04:03 PM

This is a scary proposition. While it would be good initially, Google is already a dominant player and with their anti-competitive TOS agreement they could gain monopoly power (which in the long run is bad for publishers). But in the meantime, ride the wave.

Posted by: Dan at January 26, 2006 04:46 PM

I don't like this at all, because I don't like any of these kinds of ads! If these ad types become a normal part of AdSense, I really hope I have the option to not run them.

Posted by: Dan Wolfgang at January 26, 2006 05:23 PM

I don't think they would change their "competitive ad" guidelines. Currently they don't restrict based on how an ad is displayed... only if it's contextual. And I really don't see that changing.

Posted by: Shawn Hogan at January 26, 2006 05:33 PM

The immediate problem Google is running into is not competition but rather ad blindness. Gradually people are tuning the text ads out. Bumping up to banners is only the first step and at least Google has the guts to admit that is what it is looking to do.

However, the longer term problem is that the advertsing model is going to be surplanted.

Posted by: Jay Currie at January 26, 2006 07:38 PM

Do you think the ad blindness can happen suddenly? it took about 2 years for banner ads to have their effectiveness drop off a cliff.

text ads seem "better" in that as long as you remove the borders around them and match the fonts to your site, many users will not even be able to tell they ARE ads at all.. thus they'll never be able to "tune them out" because they think those links are just part of the webpage content.

Posted by: googdude at January 26, 2006 08:41 PM

I believe, Google is now heading for a self inflicted doom like what happened to the banner ads in 90s.

I bet, Yahoo! would do the same sooner than later.

Posted by: Bhagat Singh at January 26, 2006 08:59 PM

I hate rich media ads as well. As long as they only offer it as an option then I'm not too concerned, but if it limits you to AdSense only ads in the TOS this could be a mistake on Googles part.

Posted by: Digger at January 27, 2006 01:38 AM

Hi Jennifer - what's with the Google Page rank of zero? I know this is a new site, but I could have sworn it was a 3 or 4 the other day....Canonical issues, or are you in the penalty box for divulging too much?

Great info here, by the way.


Posted by: Chase Thompson at January 27, 2006 03:43 AM

I use the Firefox AdBlock extension to block any ads that move, blink, or otherwise annoy. So if Google's "rich media" ads are served from the same server as ordinary AdSense, I'll end up blocking the latter too...

Posted by: Danny Yee at January 27, 2006 04:27 AM

Chase, the main page is still a PR6, and the older internal pages have PR. I am guessing you were looking at a brand new internal page without PR yet.

Posted by: Jenstar at January 27, 2006 06:14 AM

I find this news really funny. People that run ad supported sites have known for many years that popups can convert really well. However, Google wanted nothing to do with popups going so far as to not allow sites with popups to advertise through AdWords. I guess if this test proves successful, which I feel it will, then sites using Google AdSense will no longer be able to advertise on Google AdWords. I imagine Google will either change their AdWords terms or say there is a big difference between popup and floating ads.

Posted by: Ben Cunningham at January 27, 2006 01:27 PM

As a general rule, I NEVER click pop-ups or any other sort of intrusive ad. I block them as often as possible. Google, I can't believe you're doing this. What happened to "do no evil?"

Posted by: Alex at January 27, 2006 03:27 PM

Calling this kind of garbage "rich media" is a joke.

Ads that infringe, intrude or otherwise annoy detract and not enhance the whole "web2.0" experience.

Leave the ads where we can see them - maybe - just maybe - if we are interested we'll click on them.

Posted by: drk at January 27, 2006 03:32 PM

google is selling out.

Posted by: okron1k at January 27, 2006 03:45 PM

The worst site for rich media ads is the Weather Channel.

Look, I just want to check the weather, I don't want to have to look for the little x to close the ad that's blocking my weather data.

Google, please don't have ads that bust out of their boxes and spew all over our sites!

Posted by: Alan at January 27, 2006 04:35 PM

The only type of ads that don't completely annoy me are text ads. I block every other type of ad, and if the site places text ads in the middle of an article I block them too. Any form of advertising that is not simple basic text is simply in the way, ugly, and annoying.

Posted by: T-4 at January 27, 2006 05:07 PM

I call BS where are your sources?

Posted by: Bobby at January 27, 2006 05:19 PM

It'd be interesting to know how much more money Google's gonna make with this deal. So much for Google being 'clean'. It's like an innocent girlfriend who wants to dump you to become a adult film star.

Posted by: Jay at January 27, 2006 06:51 PM

That's the Google way. Please people first to get the critical mass, then piss some (or many) off.

Posted by: Son Nguyen at January 27, 2006 10:57 PM

OMG. Google is turning evil. Damn you google.

Posted by: theCreator at January 27, 2006 11:54 PM

If Google does this I will be dropping AdSense. I will not do that to my readers.

Posted by: Paddy O'Furniture at January 28, 2006 01:48 AM

I wish we could return to the days when it was a pleasure to see AdSense blocks, and although I run them on my site, I know only a small segment of viewers find it usefull. Until donations can support the bandwidth, I must run them. I'm glad sites like flickr allow painless hosting of my photos for when I can not host them all.

Posted by: Tanner at January 30, 2006 01:59 PM

And...so the Google profit story continues. "Sell adwords, then instead of monetizing organic...sell adsense. Cool...that works, now lets sell all advertising on the adsense players." Great..what's next? TV, Newpaper, VideoBlogs, Podcasts, WiMax hotspots. I am still waiting to see Google ads to watch while using the urinal. (Do Ya Hear That Google!...that's an idea, lets test that too! Make money while pissing aka CPP)

Posted by: MichaelB at January 30, 2006 05:09 PM

Hi Jen,
I think it is the natural next step to evolve and I bet the ads won't be as revolting if they are contexual. A couple of years from now things will be very different and internet would've emerged to become more interactive than ever - who knows what all technologies will evolve. I think it's a smart move that Google is getting ready for it.

Posted by: Sid at January 30, 2006 06:57 PM

How does Google's adsense rich media effort compete with Pointroll(a company that creates the ads - artwork, story boards, animation, etc...)?

Google would not be creating the ads. They would not be an ad agency. They would merely give you the vehicle to deploy and manage your rich media campaign. Therefore it is not a rich media competitor. It is actually a new avenue of reach for all rich media agencies(pointroll being one of them).

Please explain to me what you are saying because to me it makes no sense.

You are comparing a Rich media agency to a Rich media ad management deployment system. Which is like comparing apples and oranges.

Now if you said doubleclick - I would have nothing to say.

I look forward to hearing you explain more or retract that statement.


PS> What is with all the read more... links pointing to other sites that have all the sponsored listings on them. Is it helping you with your organic search placement. I am curious?
I would not mind them as much if they actually had more to read. They don't. Are people actually clicking on the ads? I find it amazing if they are. Now how long with that last? How long will it take before all internet users perceive that as annoying?

Posted by: Michael_T at January 30, 2006 08:44 PM

The Ultramercial Day/Site Pass model gives viewers the choice: watch an ad that "earns" them their program - OR - pay-per-view. The viewer chooses to pay with their time - OR - pay with their money.
The advertiser becomes the good guy, granting access to content you normally have to pay for. This patents-pending business model has been in place for years with partners Salon, The Economist, ABC and now Time. It is an ideal fit for the VOD industry. It would rejuvenate Google Video without cluttering their site or annoying viewers since ads only display when requested.


Posted by: Paul Grusche at January 31, 2006 12:29 PM