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A Peek at Yahoo!'s Answer to AdSense

Yahoo! goes head-to-head with Google to serve ads to small web publishers
By Eric Giguere
March 12, 2005

Since I have a book on Google's AdSense program coming out this summer (it's called Make Easy Money with Google and it's being published by Peachpit Press) you can imagine my interest to learn that Yahoo! is launching a competitor to AdSense called (apparently) Yahoo! Publisher. There are no announced details on the service yet, but I can't say I'm surprised: Google has had great success with AdSense and it was only a matter of time before someone big like Yahoo! entered the fray. Here's my take on the new program from what little I know about it.

The AdSense Program

First, let's look at AdSense. AdSense is an automated ad service that lets small website owners (web publishers) display advertisements (mostly text-based, though AdSense allows image ads now) on their own web pages and to get a share of the pay-per-click revenue those ads generate for Google. In other words, if someone comes to your site and clicks on an ad (like the ones to the right of this page) Google gives you a cut of the money they charge the advertiser.

It's a simple concept, but there's a lot of technology behind it. The AdSense program is completely automated. There's a crawler that goes to publisher sites and analyzes the content. Google then gives the publishers some JavaScript code to embed in their web pages. (If JavaScript has been disabled, no ads get shown.) When the code is executed, a call is made back to Google to generate some ads for the target page based on its previous analysis of that content. So the ads that show up are normally quite relevant to the page content. You can customize colors and formats to make the ads look good on your site and to implicitly encourage your visitors to view them (you can't explicitly ask them to click ads, that's a big no-no that will get you kicked out of the program). You're not paid for impressions (views), you're paid only when bona fide visitors click on the ads.

The Yahoo! Program

The CNet article describing the Yahoo! program linked to a blog called The Ink-Stained Wretch that has Yahoo!-supplied ads on it. The ads are on the left, a tower of four ad boxes. You can tell at a glance that these are not Google-served ads, because:

  • There's no "Ads by Google" tagline
  • The ad blocks do not touch each other
  • The text inside a block is cut off and ends with an ellipsis ("...")

I'm not a big fan of the cut-off text, mind you. Google forces its advertisers to use complete phrases and limits them to a certain number of characters per line.

Clicking on these ads sends you to the advertiser's page, though first you take a hop through an Overture server. (Overture is the Yahoo! subsidiary, soon to be renamed Yahoo! Search, that does ad serving.)

Looking at the source to the page, we see some JavaScript variable definitions that look very similar to the ones that AdSense uses:

ctxt_ad_partner = '6376949100';
ctxt_ad_section = '61';
ctxt_ad_bg = '';
ctxt_ad_width = 120;
ctxt_ad_height = 600;
ctxt_ad_bc = '8A9A3F';
ctxt_ad_cc = 'FFFFFF';
ctxt_ad_lc = '457908';
ctxt_ad_tc = '333333';
ctxt_ad_uc = '999999';

These provide tracking information and describe the colors and format of the ads, very much like AdSense does. And then later on we see the JavaScript call to display the ads:

<script language="JavaScript" 

Pretty much the same idea. Like AdSense, these ads won't work if JavaScript is disabled.

It should be noted that Google has applied for patents on aspects of its AdSense program, so it will be interesting to see if the Yahoo! program runs afoul of them or not. There's not much more I can say about the Yahoo! program at this time, but check back for further updates.

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This page was last modified on Last modified on March 12, 2005
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