Posted by: Burt Helm on April 17, 2007
We’re in the news business. Naturally when there’s a big story, more people read our stories and we make more money. So why am I so disturbed by this? Ken Wheaton at AdAge points out that both the New York Times and Inside Edition have purchased sponsored links on the search term “Virginia Shooting” with Google. In my own searching I found that Time Magazine and The Washington Post have bought ads too, on both Google and Yahoo. While that means those press outlets are looking to buy some reader traffic on the story (tacky enough on its own as Wheaton points out) it also means that Google and Yahoo are choosing to make money by advertising massacre news. It’s a fire hose of traffic, I’d imagine, so it’s no small potatoes.
Is this ok? Screen grabs after the jump.
UPDATE: I reached out to Google, Yahoo, and the media companies I mentioned above. Both Google and Yahoo sent me statements saying that on sensitive topics like this, they actually prohibit most ads. They do, however, sell ads purchased by news outlets or non-profits (the Brady Campaign, for example, also bought links on these keywords). A Time spokesperson wrote me back to say that Time.com frequently buys keywords on many topics including breaking news, “which is what users primarily want from our site.” The Washington Post declined to comment, and the other two didn’t respond.
2. (right-hand side links for a search on "Virginia Shooting")
News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.