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|Now Publishers are "recycled ads" outlets|
Businessweek puts slam on AdSense publishers
In the new Businessweek article [businessweek.com] on click fraud, the article consistently and repeatedly refers to the content network as an outlet for "recycled ads" that search engines use to "boost" their profits. The word "recycled" is used 5 times in this article to refer to content network ads.
Wow, talk about beating the drum of lousy PR for AdSense publishers! The article really makes us sound like the dregs of the advertising world, and makes the SEs sound downright sleazy just for putting ads on our websites (quite apart from the issue of click fraud).
The quotes from Google reps continue their strategy of yelling "no problems!" while humming loudly and putting their fingers in their ears. But the article cites an example of a big AdWords buyer who repeatedly told Google that a particular AdSense publisher was delivering invalid clicks. Google denied and minimized, and then essentially said "uh, yeah, guess something's going on there we weren't detecting."
Geez, what a PR disaster this article is for AdSense. Google better get on top of the perception that AdSense is a giant rip-off for advertisers real quick, because the AdSense image is on a real downhill slide now.
|The word "recycled" is used 5 times |
Miscounted, make that 7 times for some form of the word "recycle" being applied to content network ads. This is not terminology Google wants to see become standard for talking about AdSense!
|because the AdSense image is on a real downhill slide now. |
The writing has been on the wall for the longest time now. The question is why didn't they see this, or do anything about it?
My suspicion is that the reason for this is the inverse relationship between these two facts: whatever is good for Google's integrity as a search engine, is bad for its profit as an advertising medium.
I just finished reading 'The Google Story' (not that good, btw. sorry authors ;)
Anyway, one thing it mentioned that I found interesting was that Snap.com (who? hehe) is primarily CPA (cost per action...) Will CPC eventually fade away to these other models?
The use of the word "recycled" or "recycling" is a bit odd. The ads aren't being "recycled," they're being displayed in accordance with the advertisers' wishes.
Still, the article is more interesting than most such stories, if only because it has so many interesting anecdotes and details--such as the public admission of a couple in Minnesota that they'd systematically committed click fraud until they "began to realize they were cheating unwitting advertisers." If I were a prospective advertiser, that story would be an eye-opener.
A few things made me wonder in this article. If Fleischmann was losing so much to click fraud on Adsense sites, why not switch off that option? Why did it take 3 years for him to discover he had 'lost' $100,000.
The article's underlying tone seems to suggest advertisers are losing all their money and accepts Fleischman's claims at face value. Eg, if he only wanted US traffic, why didn't he set the options in Adwords to only US visitors?
I think click fraud is an important issue, but any system where you pay per lead has it's problems and loss percentage. The real problem is knowing the extent to which it occurs.
This quote really irked me the most as it muddles and sensationalises various issues.
"Fleischmann is a victim of click fraud: a dizzying collection of scams and deceptions that inflate advertising bills for thousands of companies of all sizes. The spreading scourge poses the single biggest threat to the Internet's advertising gold mine and is the most nettlesome question facing Google and Yahoo, whose digital empires depend on all that gold."
|the public admission of a couple in Minnesota |
And the lady who just made $60/month or so and viewed her network of click fraud associates as a "family" that helps each other get through hard times. That one, I found downright creepy. I'm used to people just flat-out trying to steal because they have no integrity; the thought of an underclass of little old ladies and shut-ins who just quietly and politely steal to make ends meet is a new concept for me.
I'd like to know how the author managed to track down so many sources to interview.
Regardless of its premise of digital doom, the article says some things that needed to be said. Maybe scammers and MFAs being outed in the mainstream will help provide the push we've been pleading for: get rid of the bad guys that cost Google, AdSense, and its publishers crediblity.
Believing a "news" story like this is akin to taking any punters blog for "facts"...there is obviously motive behind this write-up based on the flamboyant style of writing and utter sensationalism in the presenting of "facts"...most of us, if we were on the BusinessWeak payroll, could come up with some similarly "atomic" stories no doubt! The smear campaigns continue and all the hacks want to seem like they have some sort of "scoop" on the "story".
There is no "story" here...it's business as usual...except for some "reporters" starting to look outside of their belly-buttons for stories...
[edited by: BaseVinyl at 4:42 am (utc) on Sep. 23, 2006]
I thought that a flamboyant style of writing and the use of sensationalism are what people are taught on their way to a degree in journalism.
It is wrong to suggest that this is what most people on this forum would write. I certainly wouldn't and many editors I now would have struck out whole chunks of the story. Me, I would've rejected it outright. The simple fact is that it is unbalanced. The sources should be challenged on the facts that they claim to present. From reading the article, the problem is that the writer doesn't seem to have a proper grasp of how Adsense/Adwords works.
The reporter seems fairly clueless and willing to accept every statement at its face value.
BW lost me at this quote from a guy who had supposedly set up a click fraud ring, that was presented straight-faced:
|Gradually, he says, he and his wife began to realize they were cheating unwitting advertisers, so they stopped. |
"Gradually." Right. I don't blame the fraudster for making such self-serving statements, but the reporter is supposed to have the minimal amount of common sense required to see how ridiculous this claim is.
I'm also highly skeptical of this guy's claims that he actually made $5,000 in 4 months (even though that's a whopping $15,000 a year, I'd still bet that number is exaggerated), and that he stopped willingly.
Today's NEW YORK TIMES (Sunday, Sept. 23) also has an article on click fraud:
(Free registration required)
I didn't understand this statement...
"dummy Web addresses like insurance1472.com, which display lists of ads and little if anything else. When somebody clicks on these recycled ads, marketers such as MostChoice get billed"
I'm not sure the journalist fully understands click fraud. Insurance1472.com may be a MFA site but someone has found it probably because they are looking for insurance, they have clicked on an ad because maybe they want to buy one of Fleischmann's products, no different than if his ad had been displayed in the Google results.
Now admittedly there is a problem if a team of people in Botswana are being paid to click on his ads... but he didn't even say that, he said he got some clicks from non-US countries. Like hello Mr MBA, the Internet is a global thing... maybe someone from Syria just happened to see one of his ads and thought he would look at the company.
This is not to negate the problem of click fraud but any advertising is a gamble. You put up some information about your firm and if you advertising is good enough people may buy your product to give you a return. In Mr. Fleischmann's world people reading magzines without replying to each advert would be guilty of "eyeball fraud"!
Funny you should say: 'In Mr. Fleischmann's world people reading magzines without replying to each advert would be guilty of "eyeball fraud"!'
Not long ago a TV exec was on record as saying that TV viewers have a contractual obligation to watch ads screened during the shows they watch.
So, what if half or more of that he claims is true? Shouldn't we legitimate publishers and advertisers be outraged?
I believe all advertisers want their money to be spent on real potential customers. Clearly, there are different opinions on MFA's, however I wonder how a company like Porsche or Rolls Royce would feel if their ads where show through MFA medians? I know I would like to know that my ads are showing somewhere on par with my product and services.
Perception is reality...
My mission has always been to be a highly respected and great performing publisher. I want my advertisers to get their moneys worth and have done all that I can to accomplish this. I have wrote and published useful content resulting in increased traffic, organic advertisers, on-line sales, consulting and training services, however, my AdSense earnings have not echoed an upward trend. So, who do I blame for this anomaly? Google? Smart Pricing, MFA's? Could fraud across the AdSense network be causing the high paying customers opt out of the content network and advertisers to report poor performance across the network (smart pricing)? If 10% of your webspace competitors are crooked and gets away with click fraud and those advertisers are tracking this, likely this would effect your AdSense earnings as well via smart pricing.
Most of my marketing company managed advertisers also manage AdSense campaigns for their customers. Three have indicated to me that they never advertise on the AdSense content network. I quote one as saying "only the new advertisers use the content network, until they learn". He was referring to fraud and effective ROI.
My point in this rambling is the following:
1. The Businessweek editorial maybe honest and correct.
2. Fraud effects everyone
3. Websites of little or no value are not likely to be perceived positively by advertisers
4. Some advertisers do not trust the content network and have had bad experiences there.
5. Fraud and poor quality could sink the AdSense boat for publishers..
[edited by: Edge at 1:49 pm (utc) on Sep. 23, 2006]
Since the cover story is entitled "Click Fraud", we should set aside the MFA argument - despite the fact that the author confuses the two issues at times. It's just as easy to commit click fraud on a good site as a lousy one, just as easy to click on a single discreet ad box as on a page plastered with ads.
|Since the cover story is entitled "Click Fraud", we should set aside the MFA argument - despite the fact that the author confuses the two issues at times |
Maybe, if the purpose of this thread is solely to practice journalistic criticism or to discuss click fraud. But the larger issue (which the article addresses, though imperfectly) is whether "content network" traffic delivers value for advertisers. As Edge points out, perception is reality, and if the presence of AdSense ads on parked domains, PPC-arbitrage sites, etc. creates a widespread perception that "content ads" are a waste of money, we're all screwed.
Somethings i've read here before comes to mind, i think first mentioned over a year ago by EFV. That several popular methods of advertising are rife with waste yet still return decent ROI for most, like flyers stuffed in papers or in your mailbox(or dumped in stacks in lobbies).I can't think of the others he mentioned but it was a good point towards showing most are content with there ROI. When i worked in Advertising i had hundreds of Daytimer and Calendar customers who would order thousands every year knowing that they would end up throwing hundreds if not thousands out because it still worked for them. CF may have a huge impact for some in the program, but not to the point the network needs to panic, it just needs to react with a viable solution. And with the technical know how at there disposal and the profits at stake, its not a huge stretch to assume G and the other networks will find reliable methods to detect and prevent CF.
The article also makes me wonder if Magazines and Newspapers still make more from there hardcopy ads then they do from online ads. Maybe they are trying to deflect the wave of advertisers leaving hardcopy for the net.
With more people reading the news online, using classifieds online ,crosswords, sports, soon there will be many unread newspapers and magazines being recycled.
The "traditional" advertising business is not exactly enamored with Google. It and craigslist are almost single-handedly sinking major newspapers and other publications by taking over vast piles of revenue that once went to classifieds and other smaller ads.
This attitude drifts down to the editorial staff and results in reporters writing about how crooked this new advertising medium is.
Of course, no one ever writes about the "special fulfillment" deals magazines come up with to meet their guaranteed minimum circulation. (They basically give the magazines away, is the short answer).
I don't really think all this breast-beating is necessary. Advertisers will advertise in the content network if it works for them. If it doesn't, they won't. It's pretty easy to measure, after all.
By the way, is it really necessary to have all this vituperation about journalists? Lots of us on this list have been shot at, thrown off buildings, thrown into jail and otherwise awarded the treatment working reporters become accustomed to. We take it quietly but we don't like it.
|By the way, is it really necessary to have all this vituperation about journalists? |
A lot of businesspeople (and non-journalists in general) are ignorant about journalism. For example, there was a complaint earlier in this thread that the BUSINESS WEEK story wasn't "balanced," as if that were a sin. (An AP news story may need to be "balanced," but an article doesn't have to be: It can begin with a thesis and use facts to support an argument.) Also, many people simply don't like journalists, especially journalists who question the status quo or refuse to let sleeping dogs lie.
I thought the BUSINESS WEEK article had some weaknesses, such as the nonsense about "recycled" ads and the assumption that low-quality traffic and parked domains are the same thing as click fraud. I also agree that traditional media have their own forms of waste circulation and fraud (such as the big newspaper-circulation scandal of a couple of year ago and recent auditing changes that allow newspapers to claim sponsored giveway copies as "paid circulation"). Still, the article does make some good points, and it draws attention to the darker realities of Internet advertising that many parties (both ad networks and publishers) would just as soon sweep under the rug.
|Eg, if he only wanted US traffic, why didn't he set the options in Adwords to only US visitors? |
I was wondering the same thing. Some of the click fraud seemed totally avoidable if the advertiser simply targeted their geographic area better and/or targeted their keywords better. Rule number one of advertising is focus your advertising on your target audience as much if possible. If you are trying to sell insurance in the U.S., don't let someone in Nigeria see one's ads. Like Duh...
|Regardless of its premise of digital doom, the article says some things that needed to be said. Maybe scammers and MFAs being outed in the mainstream will help provide the push we've been pleading for: get rid of the bad guys that cost Google, AdSense, and its publishers crediblity. |
I wish something would force Google to put an end AdSense on parked domains and MFAs and scraper sites.
|Me, I would've rejected it outright. The simple fact is that it is unbalanced. The sources should be challenged on the facts that they claim to present. |
Agreed, it was a totally unbalanced agenda driven story. This is not good journalism.
|From reading the article, the problem is that the writer doesn't seem to have a proper grasp of how Adsense/Adwords works. |
Not challenging the complaints about click fraud from Botswana by pointing out that AdWords can be geo targeted is a perfect example of incomplete reporting.
|My mission has always been to be a highly respected and great performing publisher. I want my advertisers to get their moneys worth and have done all that I can to accomplish this. |
Same here; I work very hard to produce a very good site for my readers and advertisers. Calling AdSense publishers ad recyclers really upset me. As an AdWords advertiser, I have run ad campaigns that exclusively targeted content sites because I didn't want my ads showing up on search results right next to my own natural search listings.
|So, who do I blame for this anomaly? Google? Smart Pricing, MFA's? |
The continuing problem of click fraud rests squarely on Google. If they reported to the AdWords advertiser the webpage address of every click resulting from the content network, advertisers could more effectively weed out and report or block bad websites. This would improve the quality of the publisher network by helping to root out the bad actors and shutting of advertisements to really lame websites. Google also needs to allow advertisers to opt out of parked domains in mass without having to give up all content websites.
|As Edge points out, perception is reality, and if the presence of AdSense ads on parked domains, PPC-arbitrage sites, etc. creates a widespread perception that "content ads" are a waste of money, we're all screwed. |
Exactly, like click fraud, MFAs, arbitrage sites, and parked domain taint us all. I'm certain that if Google would crack down on these types of sites, the amount of revenue I earned from AdSense would increase by 50% or more as advertisers gained more trust and confidence in advertising on the content network.
|Maybe they are trying to deflect the wave of advertisers leaving hardcopy for the net. |
One must always look at the agenda of the messenger. Reporters for traditional print media have a personal vested interest in scaring advertisers away from advertising mediums that compete against their employers. This alone taints their objectivity and credibility.
|An AP news story may need to be "balanced," but an article doesn't have to be: It can begin with a thesis and use facts to support an argument. |
Granted, but it shouldn't ignore or exclude information that discredits the thesis. Science doesn't have to be balanced, but good science does have to account for all available evidence and can't cherry pick those details that support a thesis. Good reporting is the same as good science. It doesn't have to give equal time to all sides, but it shouldn't ignore reliable contradictory information. In the case of this article, the reporter ignored the fact that the insurance advertiser who was complaining about click fraud from Botswana could simply geo target their ads to users in the U.S., which is their target market.
These are hit pieces by publications that are losing revenue to Google. When you're the best your competition attacks without scruples.
Yes, AdSense ads show better ROI than BW and NYT ads. It's no wonder they squeal and fib.
When I saw that BusinessWeek took on the issue as a cover story my initial assessment was a bit cynical: Yes it's a story but how convenient for old media to challenge the revenue model of new media.
Then I read the article.
There's a human memory phenomena that trial lawyers are schooled to exploit: Primacy or "what you encounter first" and recency or "what you encounter last" - in a trial.
The cover is an interesting bit of psychology, starting with the colors (black background, big yellow "click fraud" and red "The Dark Side of Online Advertising") and nothing else to distract the reader from the message.
The wording, too, is fairly robust: "A BUSINESSWEEK INVESTIGATION". This is no article. This isn't just another cover story. THIS, ladies and gentlemen, IS AN INVESTIGATION.
They cover primacy pretty well.
Recency, the last word?
|"But if we can't fix this click-fraud problem, then it is going to scare away further development of the Internet as an advertising medium. If there is an undercurrent of fraud, then why should a large advertiser be losing $1 million, or may not know ho much it is losing?" |
I sense 1 part story and 1 part petition for a stay of execution . . of print media.
I thought Yahoo's network would not accept clicks from outside the U.S.
I'm surprised Google if doesn't monitor clicks more closely from certain suspect countries.
|He owns about 20 paid-to-read sites, he says, as well as 200 parked sites stuffed with Google and Yahoo advertisements. But he says he will take down [the site named in the article] to avoid discovery. |
Closing the barn door after the horse is gone....
|I'd like to know how the author managed to track down so many sources to interview. |
I missed the byline on the piece - perhaps it was a collaboration between Jayson Bair and Stephen Glass? ;-)
|Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass |
Even if it was researched by INTERPOL, somebody looked under a whole lotta rugs and rocks.
This is just the beginning. I'd expect even more concentrated, more serious and more coordinated attacks on PPC advertising in near future. Reason is very simple. Traditional advertising on printed media is losing both their public and advertisers. Trend is accelerating fast.
The article doesn't let the truth get in the way of a good story in places, that's for sure - not least with its vague definition of "click fraud".
But Business Week is preaching to many who know less about Adsense, etc., than the journalist - and will take his word as gospel.
So whether the journalist has his facts right or not is irrelevant. The fact is it has been circulated and will be taken on board by potential advertisers and advertisers who aren't getting the ROI they desire. Remember the whole internet thing is still a mystery to most.
Anybody Googled up adsense is dead? Might be in for a surprise...or how low will they go?
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