Contextual keyword advertising pioneer Vibrant Media launched IntelliTxt, a new online advertising model, this week. With Intellitxt, publishers can imbed sponsor links in articles. Just as HTML links allow users to click for contextual information on certain words or terms, contextual advertising allows users to click for more information on words in articles. Keywords are green-highlighted and double-underlined (presumably to make up for colour blind readers!). The company claims contextual keyword advertising generates relevant leads and a 2400% better click-through rate than banner ads.

Competitor Kanoodle’s ContextTarget* also pushes contextual ads to keywords in search results.

Contextual keyword advertising is hot. Yesterday, Yahoo reported that it has more than doubled revenues and nearly doubled earnings per share in the past year. Last year, Yahoo acquired Overture, a paid search sponsored link advertising company. Now Yahoo includes contextual keyword advertising and paid inclusion in search results and portals.

According to AdAge, the people who write content — journalists — are mad as heck. AdAge quotes one journalism expert who sees the ads as product placement.

And it’s easy to see why. If keywords drive advertising dollars, then publishers will implore editors to deliver articles rich in certain keywords. Editors will push journalists to write articles that specifically target certain keywords.

But it’s unlikely that newspapers will start writing sentences such as “Get three l0an offers — special deal for diabetics — when you buy Vi4gr4 online.” For contextual keyword ads to work, readers need to click on them. If readers don’t click, it doesn’t matter how many keywords appear.

In comparison, if journalists write compelling, informative articles that specifically target reader demographics and interests, relevant keywords will actually support themes in the article. And, since readers only see the ads if they click on them, this advertising is less intrusive than newspaper ads, flyers, or, worse yet, the “New Homes” or “Fashion” supplements. If readers start clicking on keyword links, that means they find the articles highly relevant. And that could mean journalists are serving the readers.

Granted, some keywords, such as for “poverty” or “stop child abuse” may have few takers. However, media providers could donate keyword use to non-profit agencies. And, if readers genuinely expect to read such articles, publishers will need to ensure coverage for those topics or they’ll lose credibility as news agencies.

Contextual keyword advertising won’t corrupt the media. Even Chomsky* notes that structure, power and environment dictate what the media say. Contextual keyword advertising is already part of the system. Intellitxt just means a fresh coat of paint.

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.

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