A year after it acquired RSS feed management firm FeedBurner, Google has begun offering some FeedBurner publishers the option to carry AdSense ads in their feeds.
While Google's human sales staffers have for months offered some FeedBurner-managed RSS inventory as part of custom ad packages for larger advertisers, this move represents the first significant integration of the two companies' flagship products. Google also hinted at future enhancements to its RSS ad offering.
The integration will begin slowly. A group of beta publishers will be given the option to use AdSense listings as backfill for their unsold inventory. A wider launch to all FeedBurner and AdSense publishers will be "coming soon," FeedBurner said in a blog post Friday. Specific information about ad formats and targeting options will be made available at that time.
Affected Google advertisers that don't keep a close eye on their placement reports may not notice their ads are showing up in RSS. However those engaged in placement targeting will observe RSS ads have been added to the menu of ad positions available for any given site.
"When they target a placement they will have the choice: top banner, right rail, or feed," said Steve Olechowski, former COO of FeedBurner and now a business product manager for AdSense. "They can also target a whole site. When they do that they'll get all the content placements that site offers," including feeds.
Google previously engaged in a test of AdSense for feeds back in 2005, long before it acquired FeedBurner. According to Olechowski, the new program merges with and replaces that early endeavor.
Future evolutions of Google's RSS ad offering may include the ability to serve formats based on the capabilities of an end user's feed reading mechanism of choice, be it Bloglines, Google Reader or iGoogle, Google's personalized homepage that can also double as a lightweight RSS browser.
"Since we proxy the feed for the publisher, we know where the ads are being shown and we can show different ad formats in different places," said Olechowski. "The ads you see in Google Reader may not be the same you see in iGoogle. We can show different formats."
Since FeedBurner was acquired in June 2007, its senior management team has begun to work on other projects within Google. Former CEO Dick Costolo no longer has primary oversight of FeedBurner. Meanwhile Olechowski has taken over the feed management product as part of a broader product management role within the AdSense division.
Some FeedBurner publishers have complained of declining CPMs in the wake of Google's acquisition of the company. Olechowski refuted the claim that its ability to monetize for publishers has declined in general. While he said he can't speak to the experiences of individual sites, he said FeedBurner publishers are on balance seeing higher eCPMs than ever, thanks to Google.
Asked about other ad serving advantages that might be created by FeedBurner's cozy relationship with Google Reader and iGoogle, Olechowski declined to comment.
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