Advertising in the item, not the bundle

If a news organization makes money by displaying advertisements on its site, how can it continue to deliver those ad messages — and continue to generate the associated revenue — in a world where people find their news in bundles created by their friends and automated services?

The RSS

This Mashable profile of Diner Connection is part of a series sponsored by Microsoft. Since the ad message and its links have been inserted in the post as the first paragraph, that message also is delivered in RSS feeds. This is how it appeared in my Google Reader.

Mashable sponsored item within Google Reader

The channel

If someone clicked on a link from their friend’s tweet to this ReadWriteWeb data visualization post, they would be met with a ReadWriteHack “channel” heavily branded by sponsor Intel. Like the example above, first paragraph includes a note about the series, along with links to the sponsor’s site.

Read Write Hack channel

The thanks

TechCrunch advertisers don’t only appear in designated ad spots on their site or within RSS feeds, they actually create blog posts like this one thanking their sponsors. The post includes two links to each advertiser, along with a short description of each company’s products or services.

TechCrunch sponsors in a single post

The stream

This one isn’t actually outside of the bundle, but shows how a publisher can integrate advertising directly into a site’s content bundle. The Mashable homepage simply displays excerpts of its posts in reverse chronological order. But injected into that stream are these posts from, and links to, their jobs site.

Mashable Jobs within a stream of content

The ad unit that works in RSS feeds, no plugin or widget required

Sponsor message: Jsavers offers journalists their own WordPress blog for $5 a month.

No, this blog post is not really sponsored. But you sure did notice my fictional sponsor, didn’t you?

I’ve been kicking around the idea of simple, human-placed text ads that could appear at the top of any (textual) blog post or article. This kind of ad would travel wherever RSS readers were used.

The idea seems plausible, but I’m no expert in this field, so I have many questions that I hope you can help answer:

  • Why shouldn’t blog posts include hand-placed textual advertisements?
  • Can humans do a better job than Google at determining contextually relevant ads to serve?
  • Who would match the ad to the content? Editorial or advertising staff?
  • Are consumers more likely to read sponsored messages that aren’t shoved into the right-hand side of a site?
  • Would an ad unit like this require ad-serving software?
  • What tools would need to be built to facilitate the quick research that human-placement would require?
  • Would this change the way editorial and advertising staff work together?
  • Would a sponsor’s message appear as an article’s summary in search engine result pages?
  • If the answer to the previous question is yes, would that decrease the article’s chance of being clicked?
  • What are the SEO/SEM implications for the content publisher? For the advertiser?

If you want to read more about ads in RSS feeds, Problogger has a good page of RSS advertising options and WATblog has a post all about RSS advertising.