In-Text Out of Context

In iMedia Connection today, there’s an article by the CEO of Contera, "The Value of In-Text Advertising," discussing how in-text ads (ads that appear as double-underlined words within an article, revealing themselves on mouseovers) should be embraced. He writes:

Like paid search before it, In-Text Advertising is the new kid on the block. Those who had the vision to embrace the opportunities in paid search early continue to profit from that vision today. Why not share the vision?

Here’s why not:

In-text advertising has nothing to do with search. Basically, he’s making the case that since search was underutilized and unheard of in 1998, and in-text ads are in that boat now, then advertisers should look into in-text ads, and maybe in-text ads will become a $XX billion industry in a few years.

By that line of reasoning, advertisers should also consider advertising on people’s backsides (see a post on "buttvertising" here), or any other type of marketing out there. What Yoav Shaham doesn’t do at all in the article is make a case for in-text advertising or refute the problems with it (he only refutes one – that it compromises editorial integrity – and I always found that to be the weakest of all arguments against in-text advertising).

My biggst problem with in-text ads is that they’re intrusive and distracting. If you’re scrolling over an article, this text box appears with an ad, and I’d argue that the relevance is even worse than you’d find with banners. When reading content, highlighted words should add value to it. Any words I’ve highlighted in this post, such as "buttvertising," include links for more information if the user wants to peruse more content, but I’d never try to sell anything via those links; if I did, I’d likely lose all credibility with my readership.

Am I being too hard on Mr. Shaham? Am I being too easy on him? Your feedback’s welcome. This has riled me up enough that it might be for the next MediaPost column, so should you comment to this, also note if you’d want your name quoted in the piece (email comments are also welcome).