In-Textification Or In-Text Infestation?

Depending on whom you ask, the in-text ad is either an ingenious ad revenue-generation mechanism (an opinion typically shared by marketing and ad sales people), or pure unadulterated evil invented by Lucifer himself (popular opinion among journalists and editors). These two groups could be referred to as bottom-liners (not to be confused with bottom-feeders), and content purists (read: hopeless idealists).

The bottom-liner views the proliferation of in-text advertising, or in-textification, as a natural progression of the ad-supported Internet universe. In this world, Web sites exist to generate revenue, or at least that's what their job description says. These people are generally responsible for squeezing every last penny out of any available pixel they can confiscate from their editors and/or Web site designers.

Content purists, alternately, see the growing threat of in-text advertising as an unwanted infestation that crosses the line between their sacred words and the necessary evil that is advertising. While they subconsciously acknowledge that advertising pays their bills, they long for an Internet utopia void of banners, interstitials, rollovers, adwords, pop-ups and the like. (If only Al Gore could have foreseen the dark side of his creation, would he have done it differently, knowing what he knows now?)



The common ground for both of these groups is that they understand and embrace the reality that one cannot exist without the other -- or let's at least pretend they do, just for the sake of argument. Without the bottom-line focus of marketing and ad sales people, the Internet would most likely be an overgrown college message board. By the same token, ads without compelling content wouldn't draw eyeballs to visit a Web site (although that hasn't stopped a large number of video-sharing sites from adopting that model).

The lure of in-text advertising for bottom-liners is that it essentially creates prime real estate that didn't exist before. It offers a wonderful solution for Web sites that don't have any more ad inventory to sell. This newfound treasure trove can be turned into additional ad inventory that doesn't require any modifications to the layout of a page.

For the content purist, however, embedding ads into individual words in their articles can create an unwanted intrusion and a poor user experience for the reader.

This leads us to the issue at hand. Can in-text advertising provide additional ad revenue while not detracting from the user experience, or possibly even enhancing the user experience?

There are a number of companies like Yahoo, Snap, JargonFish and LingoSpot that have created a next generation of hybrid in-text applications that may offer an acceptable alternative that benefits the bottom-liner, the content purist and the Web site visitor.

This hybrid model displays related content from a variety of online resources (i.e. YouTube, flickr, IMDb, Wikipedia, Technorati...) along with a display or text ad. With this type of application, the ad unit is secondary to the content in the window. The added value of the related content provides the visitor with a compelling reason to click on the highlighted link and view the contents of the in-text window, including the ad.

The result is an in-text solution that could appease both the bottom-liners and the content purists. The ad unit generates revenue and the related content adds value to the overall user experience, or at least that is the intended goal.

While this solution may not completely bridge the gap between salespeople and journalists, maybe the two sides could view it as a small plot of common ground in the battle for Web page real estate. Sort of like the Switzerland of the Internet.

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