The good people at It’s all good have a little disagreement over Google’s apparent plan to allow graphical ads and ads that aren’t context-sensitive. Alane’s agin it, George not so much.
George’s comment resonates with me, maybe because I’m an “old media” person and understand the economics of most magazine and newspaper publishing (with some remarkable exceptions, e.g. Consumer Reports–and because I’ve seen similar set-tos between readers and editors/publishers of magazines when “irrelevant” ads appear.
So, for example, if Stereophile has a full-page ad for, say, Hotshot Vodka or Snobsail Cruises or Dinosaur SUVs, they’re likely to get a letter or two complaining about this wasted paper. The response is usually some variant of the truth: For many magazines, the subscription price barely covers distribution costs (consider Conde Nast Traveler at $12 a year for 12 fat issues). Everything else–editorial staff, printing, profit–comes from advertising.
If Google starts selling search placements and doesn’t label them appropriately, I’d be upset. If Google starts running ads that get in the way of search results, I’d be upset. If Google’s site becomes one-third search results, two-thirds ads (like one weblog that I try to avoid going to directly these days), I’d be a little upset. Otherwise–well, so far, Google isn’t charging me.