Websites like Squidoo and Britannica already monetize with in-text ads, earning effective CPM measured in whole dollars, not cents. It is time to reconsider in-text advertising.
When contextual ads first appeared and were placed on early adopters’ websites, they were frowned upon. According to detractors, the delicate borders between editorial content and advertising were at stake. Several years later, Google AdSense seems to be an integral part of any website where the publisher seeks to keep quality content available for free. Just like any advertising method before it, contextual ads have gone through the typical cycle — from absence, through protest and on to legitimacy. In-text ads (also called inline ads) are now going through the same cycle and are on the verge of becoming standard practice.
In-text ads can now be found all over the Web — those double-underlined links that, upon a mouse hover, open a small bubble holding an advertisement. The leading in-text advertising networks now rank high in all relevant lists and together cover billions of page views and generate millions of dollars in revenue.
Making the Case for In-text Advertising: Typically, advertisers are in a quest to win the attention of potential customers. But in a noisy world, this task has become very difficult. In the online realm, advertisers have been forced to increase the amount and level of interruptions to get the same level of attention. As a result, advertising units become louder — with Flash animation, video and sound, taking over large parts of websites and disturbing the balance between good content and advertising.
In essence, in-text ads fulfill the circumstances in which potential customers willingly choose to be exposed to advertising messages. As such, they yield high return on advertising campaign investments and offer website publishers strong monetization opportunities.
With in-text ads, visitors to a website are not interrupted in their reading. There are no animated banners or video characters walking across the screen. The double underline links merely signal to readers: there’s more here. But the ad will not appear unless called for. When an interested reader actively hovers over a double-underlined link, he independently decides to be exposed to an advertisement. If the permission stops there, the reader can move the mouse away and the bubble will disappear. Only if the reader is interested enough to click on the ad is he redirected to the advertiser’s landing page and a charge to the campaign is made. At this point, the website publisher also gets paid.
This double-action process means that the potential customer has given his permission, twice, to pay with his attention. Advertisers find that such visitors are good candidates for their messages and many publishers have found that readers are much less frustrated with these ads over their traditional counterparts.
In the last two years, online advertising and monetization experts have seen in-text ads start as a means for bloggers to cover their costs. But soon after, these ads were also placed on major publishers’ websites. Furthermore, despite initial concerns, well-established brands have incorporated in-text ads in their business models; including traditional publishers. Remarkably, in-text ads are now served to an estimated number of more than 500 million unique users every month — and this number is growing rapidly.
Why Not In-text Advertising? Questions still linger about placing ads on top of content. Some publishers argue that the underlined links can be mistaken for regular links – content usually endorsed by the author. Other objections come in the form of usability. One argument is that a wayward mouse hover interrupts reading and causes distractions. Some even argue that in-text ads disrupt navigation.
We don’t put ads on our websites for their beauty. We use them to finance operations and keep our visitors happy with free content. In-text ads are subtle and less intrusive than many other formats of ads that are frequently used across the Web.