I had dinner last night with a relative who is chief of a large department in a midwestern county. He has been the moving force behind their website, which serves public records as well as information about services, schedules, contacts, etc.
They have reached a traffic level of 1 million visits per month, and its a very regular stream: no peaks and valleys. My relative (and several county commissioners) are interested in revenue possibilities from the site. The proceeds would go to paying for the development and maintainance of the website, with any extra $$ --if there were some-- to the department's general budget.
They have looked at trying to sell direct ads, but they are learning that you can't just ask the IT people to suddenly become marketers and salespeople. So, that route doesn't seem to be a good choice.
My thoughts were how nicely AdSense could fit this situation. I can see how local attorneys, accountants, real estate services, and the like would make a market that AdSense could serve to the county's web pages.
On the other hand, there could be real public relations trouble if the ads served were from bogus or otherwise undesirable businesses. I am (kind of) confident that careful management (perhaps every day) of the AdSense system on these pages could minimize these troubles.
What do you think? Would you be offended if your local government website started serving ads alongside the information about the city or county? Would it be much different from the privatization of government services that is becoming popular these days? Would there be potential for any serious problems? Does anyone know of a city, county or state already doing this?
Thank you for your thoughts.