Google Opens Up Beta of AdSense for Feeds

NEW YORK – After testing AdSense contextual ad distribution in a handful of RSS feeds over the past few weeks, Google is opening up the beta program to all of its publisher partners. The company made the announcement at the Syndicate conference in Manhattan Tuesday.

“We really want to nurture this market,” said Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for AdSense. As we’re “getting the business model right for media on the Web in general, it’s imperative that advertising be integrated into feeds properly.”

Ads placed in Google’s AdWords system for contextual distribution will automatically begin appearing on feeds. Though Google recently began testing a feature that would allow advertisers to target by site in its contextual network, advertisers will not yet be able to target their ads by feed or bid separately for feed-distributed ads.

Google’s Ghosemajumder said it is too early to tell how ads in RSS feeds will perform.

“For both click-through and conversion rates, it’s something that’s going to vary from publisher to publisher. It depends on the content and the audience that the particular publisher is attracting,” he said. “For the medium overall, we just need to see when we have a larger set of users who are seeing the ads.”

The search giant is accepting applications from publishers whose feeds have more than 100 active subscribers. Once they’re accepted, publishers paste Google ad code into their RSS feed templates. Text ads are then rendered as graphics — allowing Google to ensure creative is served at the moment the feed is read, rather than when it is downloaded.

“It’s mainly because a very large number of feed readers don’t support Javascript,” explained Ghosemajumder. “We need to conduct a real time auction process for the advertising and we need to be able to deliver the appropriate ad when a user looks at an article.”

Industry-watchers expect the offering to be most attractive to smaller publishers, as larger ones could likely sell the space themselves.

“We’re going to start serving little ads in our RSS feeds,” said Lincoln Millstein, SVP & director of digital media at Hearst Newspapers. “I don’t think we need AdSense to do that.”

Google, however, contends that larger publishers are the ones that have the most to gain because they have the largest potential audiences — and the need to cover the costs of content creation and distribution.

“We anticipate that the product should appeal to anyone that creates a feed,” said Ghosemajumder.

The company also makes recommendations for integrating the ads into publishers’ feeds. It suggests the placement of one ad unit per post on full-text feeds. Google’s ads are targeted by the full text of an article, even if only a headline and tease are fed into RSS.

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