Keeping In-Text Ads in Context

Newspapers are struggling to generate revenues in the face of declining readerships and ad pages. At least people have not abandoned getting news altogether, many go to the web sites of their local daily newspaper to access news free that they would pay to access in the print version. One way newspapers are using the web to generate revenues in absence of subscriptions is advertising.

A form of online advertising gaining increased usage on news sites is in-text advertising. Rather than placing a banner or text ad on the margin of the page that can be easily ignored, in-text advertising hyperlinks keywords in the copy of a story to an advertiser's paid message. The key to making in-text advertising work is keeping the placements within the context of the story. For example, I recently read an article on the website of Nashville's major daily paper, The Tennessean, about a Nashville concert by Stevie Wonder. The name "Stevie Wonder" was hyperlinked to an ad that contained information about ordering Stevie Wonder CDs and box sets. This connection was very logical and well-placed. A person reading about Stevie Wonder might be inclined to search for information about buying his music as a result of exposure to the combination of the news story and the in-text ad.

Unfortunately, this practice has the potential to become advertising run amuok very easily. The same day I read the Stevie Wonder article, I read another article about Christmas sales for retailers. The word "consumer's" appeared in a sentence describing consumer shopping behavior. "Consumer's" was hyperlinked to an in-text ad for credit cards. Some people despise in-text ads already because it blurs the distinction between editorial content and commercialism. In-text ads must have context; the advertiser should have a logical and appropriate connection to the news story. Otherwise, this form of advertising will be rendered as ineffective as banner ads have become.