[Ben] Dover Beach
I read about AdContext, eBay's planned contextual advertising network today, and then got into a short email discussion with Vinny Lingham, whose blog I read and opinion I value. My feeling on AdContext is it won't be as good of a thing for eBay or as bad of thing for Google as people are likely to say over the next week. Here's why:
1) AdSense publishers know their traffic sucks. When GOOG started to allow advertisers to bid its contextual (AdSense) network separately from its search network, AdSense publishers groaned en masse. Why? Because they know their traffic doesn't convert. So why would they want to give up part of a CPC for a revshare on... nothing?
2) Most of the contextual inventory that is high enough value to be better monetized via an affiliate relationship already is. EBay's affiliate program has been around for years, during which time publishers have *already* found the right balance between Adsense and affiliate links.
3) This will not give EBAY's Skype unit the big entre into pay-per-call that some will expect. From these ads EBAY may enable buyer-to-seller calls via Skype, but there's no reason to think AdContext will be any better served by phone calls than EBay's current affiliate program.
Vinny certainly hopes that AdContext brings us one step closer to "The Future of Search Engines", but a) this is contextual advertising; b) eBay is already for the most part a CPA-based search engine; and as I say in my points above, there's just too many people with an incentive for the CPC status quo.
Vinny called me a cynic, which brought to mind the end of 'Dover Beach', a poem by Matthew Arnold. I've replaced 'love' with 'affiliate', 'world' with 'PPC' and changed the title to 'Merchant Ode To An Affiliate':
Merchant Ode To An Affiliate
Ah, [affiliate], let us be true
To one another! for [PPC], which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.