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I’m a PC, and I like what I see.

21 Sep 2008 | No comments

I came, I saw and I was appalled. Bill Gates’ butt shak­ing hardly provided much of a Vista. Watch the new Win­dows ad for your­self.

06 Sep 2008 | 2 comments

You may know that I write for the Wiki­pe­dia Sign­post, and recently, I wrote an art­icle for it on the com­par­is­on between Wiki­pe­dia and Google Knol. In the end, the art­icle I wrote was sub­stan­tially over­hauled by the edit­or because it was an opin­ion piece biased towards one view — inten­tion­ally. Although opin­ion some­times does make it into the Sign­post, the edit­or felt that was not the time nor place for it, and so he rewrote most of it in a more object­ive style. So it’s old news, but instead of wast­ing (some­what) good prose, here it is:

Google usu­ally makes a noisy entry wherever it dares to tread, and this week’s announce­ment of Knol, a site that will host user-gen­er­ated art­icles was no dif­fer­ent. Wiki­pe­di­ans, how­ever, should have noth­ing to fear.

Knol, which is cur­rently only access­ible to a select few who have been invited, will be a site that hosts user-gen­er­ated con­tent on a wide range of sub­jects. The term knol was coined by Google to mean a unit of know­ledge, and refers to the entire pro­ject as well as indi­vidu­al art­icles. While the jury is still out on wheth­er Knol will be suc­cess­ful, or wheth­er it will even make it to a pub­lic launch, the obvi­ous com­par­is­on that has sparked the Inter­net alight is with Wiki­pe­dia.

There are some imme­di­ately appar­ent dif­fer­ences between Knol and Wiki­pe­dia. The most import­ant one is that Knol is not a wiki. Con­tent pages will be owned by a single author and that sole author has the respons­ib­il­ity of main­tain­ing its con­tent; users can par­ti­cip­ate by sug­gest­ing edits, or by rat­ing or com­ment­ing on the art­icle, but that’s about it. There is no Wiki­pe­dia-style col­lab­or­a­tion mod­el; in fact, it is dif­fi­cult to see how there can be much of a strong com­munity. The single author approach admit­tedly has its attrac­tions, though; an author’s repu­ta­tion lives and dies by his or her words, and this builds trust into the equa­tion. How­ever, as many have noted, this denies Knol one of the more valu­able aspects of Wiki­pe­dia art­icles, that con­tro­ver­sial art­icles are likely to have been edited by a vari­ety of users who have had to com­prom­ise to pro­duce a rel­at­ively neut­ral and bal­anced piece of work. The com­pet­i­tion between dif­fer­ent Knol pages will not neces­sar­ily res­ult in great­er util­ity for the end user.

This com­pet­i­tion is what will define Knol, and this fur­ther dif­fer­en­ti­ates it from Wiki­pe­dia. Writers of Knol con­tent will have the abil­ity to insert Google advert­ising into their pages and earn a cut of the res­ult­ing rev­en­ue. Wiki­pe­dia, on the oth­er hand, is advert­ising-free, and the com­pet­i­tion on this site, if you can call it that, is one more akin to a friendly mer­ito­cracy than the harsh world of chas­ing advert­ising dol­lars. Knol, from its very found­a­tions, does not seem con­du­cive to a com­munity spir­it, some­thing that may keep edit­ors on Wiki­pe­dia.

But maybe Google doesn’t need a sense of com­munity. Cyn­ic­ally, all it needs is for people to link to Knol art­icles, have the pages appear close to the top of its widely-used search res­ults and then have its advert­ising cash registers chink­ing; by com­par­is­on, send­ing people to Wiki­pe­dia does Google no dir­ect fin­an­cial favours. Wiki­pe­dia could lose out by hav­ing less incom­ing traffic, and there­fore less expos­ure to new, poten­tial edit­ors.

Knol is an inter­est­ing idea that will surely stim­u­late debate about how the face of user-gen­er­ated con­tent should pro­ceed. It cur­rently appears as neither friend nor foe, but as anoth­er choice for users that will prob­ably sat­is­fy its own niche.

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I recently signed up to Google AdSense when I con­ver­ted the main site search to using Google Cus­tom Search. (The rev­en­ue share on my accounts page is lis­ted as 0.0% for some strange reas­on though; I’m not sure what that means, but Google doesn’t actu­ally pub­licly reveal what share of the rev­en­ue they give you, so I’m not too wor­ried about that.)

Now, I’m tri­al­ling Google refer­ral ads as well. Because my site’s primary pur­pose isn’t to make me money, I’ve tried to make them as unob­trus­ive as pos­sible. Cur­rently, they’re only show­ing on stat­ic pages (such as the home page), and they’re just ads for Fire­fox and Google Pack — two pieces of soft­ware that I’m more than happy to recom­mend. I def­in­itely won’t be going down the AdWords path just yet — I don’t have pos­it­ive asso­ci­ation with those types of advert­ise­ments.

By the way, this is the truth.

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