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Ads Clashing With Content

April 6, 2011

Just one day after speaking to our class, William A. Jacobson’s popular conservative blog Legal Insurrection was displaying an ad for Obama’s 2012 campaign. Our teacher asked Jacobson about the ads on his site, and whether any had shown up that he found problematic. He said no, he hadn’t.

Jacobson, unlike many big bloggers, isn’t a tech wizard nor does he employ one. He utilizes Google’s free blogging software and ad tools instead of the more advanced platforms like WordPress. It keeps his life simple, allowing him to focus on the content and the technical aspects second. However, this example shows one of the flaws in his system.

Jacobson mentioned in our class that he has no control over the ads, and has noticed that they actually will change depending on the content he writes. He’s right, they do. Google’s algorithms compute which ads are the most relevant to what appears on your page. Their business model is built on connecting advertisers with people interested in their products. However, these formulas don’t always work as intended, as Jacobson shows.

On Jacobson’s front page, the word “Obama” appears 23 times. With money being spent (probably big money) on Obama’s campaign, Google is probably filling many ad spaces with pro-Obama content without necessarily filtering out those sites that are being critical and not supportive. As such, these ads are probably falling onto deaf ears.

Jacobson’s business model works for him, and as long as he points out these ads, they may actually be a good opportunity for him to be transparent about how he handles advertising. By not hand selecting ads, like he does with comments, he will sometimes end up with ads that are conflicting with his ideas. If he let’s people know that he’s not in control, no one should be pointing fingers at him calling him a hypocrite. Instead, as his post points out, it may lead people to question Obama’s advertising techniques instead.

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