Monday, December 05, 2005

Will Google Tear Down The Wall Between Advertising & Editorial...By Accident?

I've been intrigued by some of the stuff I hear clients and marketing/publishing media musing about lately. Mostly everyone's tensed-up to hear about whatever Google has up its sleeve this week/month/epoch, but, the more cerebral types are talking about a future that could have verrrry interesting ramifications.

Specifically, the day is nigh when publishers of online content such as the NY Times could post an article online and send it out via RSS ... and also simultaneously, AUTOMATICALLY, generate a Search Engine Marketing campaign (SEM) that maximizes the potential monetization of the content, within hours.

Today, marketers spend a long time plotting out SEM strategies. What keywords will net the greatest ROI?

Tomorrow, with new technologies on the horizon, the content of a publisher's articles will be automatically spidered for keywords by their SEM vendors' solutions, which will in turn magically generate campaigns that enjoy accelerated acceptance tracks within the AdSense systems of Google (and Google's peers, to be fair). So, maybe an hour after the story runs, the publisher starts making money based on the content of that distinct article.

Example: A year from now, let's say that the NY Times posts an article about the quest to create a delicious new flavor of fat-free ice cream from Haagen-Dazs. The latest SEM technology scours the RSS feed within seconds after it's sent out, and immediately Google knows that any searches for "Haagen-Dazs", "ice cream", "fat-free", etc., ought to populate AdWord campaigns for the NY Times. But rather than the generic AdSense listing for the NYT, the advertisement that pops up via a user's search for "ice cream" might now read, "Read all about Haagen-Dazs's quest to create a new fat-free ice cream at the New York Times." All automated, all nearly instantaneous, via RSS.

Keep in mind, though, that the NY Times publishes hundreds of articles a day, so, this (context-specific & incredibly timely) SEM campaign could get expensive, and fast. My guess is that a publisher could temper its "Automated AdSense" expenses by, say, putting a time-limit on the SEM campaign of hours (instead of weeks), or, only running SEM campaigns based on what they're sending out via RSS, which is probably a far smaller universe of keywords.

Why wouldn't a publisher want to do this? Why wouldn't Google want to offer this kind of lickety-split functionality? They would, and, they would!

But what does this mean, if anything, to "The Wall" between publishing and advertising...?
  • Will publishers be lured by the ever-quicker route to $$$ to only publish articles that contain keywords that they know to be popular?
  • Will journalists resent writing articles that have been assigned by their publishers based almost exclusively on their AdSense monetization potential?
  • With a newfound ability to track revenue back to individual stories, might some reporters be keen to see how "valued" their original content is to their publisher, and then even demand salary raises based on this data?
  • What does this imply for PR firms? Will we ever turn away clients because their "Keyword Factor" won't be impressive enough to excite editors into writing stories?
  • Will we build new practices designed to "keywordize" our lackluster clients?
  • Will clients empower PR to run select AdWord campaigns meant to drive industry dialogues?
Granted, this tug-of-war has been going on since the dawning of the publishing/advertising model, but, I guess my question is whether the speed & specificity with which publishers and journalists can gauge the results of these efforts will lead them down darker paths (and ever quicker)?

This is something to keep an eye on... and to plan for, eh?

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