SiliconFilter Now Lets (Some) Bloggers Monetize Their Sites with Ads


Automattic’s just announced that some of its users will now be able to run display ads on their sites. WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms around today. Including the hosted site and its self-hosted cousin WordPress, more than 50,000 new blogs running this software come online every day. Until now, however, users of the hosted service didn’t really have an option to monetize their ads. Now, thanks to a partnership with online advertising company Federated Media, bloggers will be able to run ads on their sites.

It’s worth noting that this just applies to a very specific subset of sites for now, though. Bloggers will have to apply to be part of this program and own a custom domain for their blogs. WordPress will select sites based on “level of traffic and engagement, type of content, and language used on a blog.” What exactly the benchmarks for inclusion are, however, isn’t clear. Federated Media generally only works with larger sites written in English, but is clearly making some exceptions for’s announcement doesn’t mention any financial details, besides rightly noting that bloggers “deserve better than [Google’s] AdSense.” still explicitly prohibits the use of other advertising services on its site, though, including Adsense, Yahoo, Chitika, TextLinkAds, as well as sponsored posts through PayPerPost, ReviewMe, and Smorty.

4:32 pm

Google’s New AdWords Express Takes the Work Out of Creating Ad Campaigns


It’s no secret that AdWords ads are still responsible for the vast majority of Google’s revenue and that local ads in particular are a major growth area for the company. Today, Google launched AdWords Express, a new product that will make it even easier for local businesses to launch AdWords campaigns. AdWords Express boils the relatively complex AdWords interface down to the basics and makes setting up a new campaign as easy as filling out a basic web form.

What also makes AdWords express very different from the regular AdWords experience is that Google automatically manages most aspects of a campaign. Users, for example, don’t have to select specific keywords that will trigger the ad or manage the details of the bidding process. Instead, advertisers simply select a monthly budget, decide whether ads should be linked to their place pages or websites and come up with the copy for the ad (the last one is probably the hardest task).

Chances are, many AdWords professionals and consultants won’t like this new approach, as it makes setting up campaigns almost too easy.

For advanced users with a good understanding of how Google’s advertising products work, though, digging deeper into the system and being able to manipulate which keywords trigger ads and how much they want to pay for them is still a worthwhile undertaking. AdWwords Express, after all, looks like it will be a bit of a black box.

6:07 pm

Collusion: Who is Tracking You Across the Web?


As we surf the web, we don’t just leave a trace on the servers we visit, but advertisers and advertising networks also track our every moves from page to page with the help of cookies on our own machines. The more they know about us, after all, the more personalized their ads can be. While most of us know this is happening, it’s hard to really understand the extend of how many of these tracking services there are. Thanks to Collusion – a new open source Firefox plugin – you can now get a better idea of who is tracking you across the web. (more…)

7:07 pm

Google Confirms FTC Antitrust Inquiry, But Says Reasons are “Unclear”


There were some rumors earlier this week that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was about to launch a formal antitrust investigation into Google’s “core search advertising business.” Today, Google confirmed that it has indeed received formal notification from the FTC that “it has begun a review of [its] business.” In its official statement, Google notes that it’s “unclear” what exactly the FTC’s concerns are, but if an earlier Wall Street Journal report is correct, the FTC is especially interested in investigating if Google has abused its dominant position in the search advertising space. (more…)

4:48 pm

Guardian Plans to Create New Tech & Media Blog Network, Swap Articles With Blogs


The Guardian plans to create a new network of tech and media blogs. According to the newspaper’s head of media and technology Dan Sabbagh, this new network would work with two very distinct models. The first is a non-commercial agreement that will allow the Guardian to republish articles from the blogs in its network. In return, these blogs will be allowed to republish Guardian articles on their sites as well (up to the swap limit). In addition to this, the Guardian also plans a commercial offering where the organization would also sell ads for some of the blogs in its network (or even host the sites outright and share revenue).

As Sabbagh puts it, the Guardian doesn’t want to replicate the closed paywall model of Rupert Murdoch’s sites and the “traditional newspaper model, where editorial control comes from the top down, where the content is produced by a narrow group of professionals and the readership is similarly elitist.” What the Guardian strives for instead, says Sabbagh, is an “open approach” where there are “no barriers for readers, which encourages mass audiences.”

Content Sharing

The non-commercial content-sharing agreement would allow bloggers in the Guardian’s network to republish one newspaper for every article the paper chooses to publish on its site. Writers will also get the SEO benefits of links from the Guardian and name recognition. Unlike the Huffington Post model, this concept relies on what feels like a relatively fair form of sharing (the Guardian keeps the upper hand, though – after all, the paper won’t publish one of your articles in return for every post you copy from it).

A Farm League for the Guardian?

It’s clear, though, that the Guardian also sees this model as a form of farm league for bringing individual bloggers into its own stable in the long run. Sabbagh only hints at this in his announcement, but the idea that the paper could host some bloggers on the papers site clearly points in this direction.

Other papers, including the New York Times, currently have syndication agreements with large tech blogs like ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat, GigaOm and TechCrunch. None of these agreements allow the blogs to republish any content from the newspaper sites, though.


The Guardian encourages bloggers with “healthy traffic (five figures at least)” who would like to join this program to email [email protected] with “a link to the site, some details about who you are and what you do, and some traffic information.”

11:40 pm

Google Launches Instant Previews for Ads


Last November, Instant Previews made their debut on Google’s search results pages. Today, Google is taking this concept one step further by introducing Instant Previews for Ads as well. Thanks to this new feature, you can now get a preview of the site that hides behind text ads on Google Search without having to click on the link and without leaving the search results page.

For advertisers, who generally pay Google per click on a text link, this should be a welcome new feature, as it will allow potential customers to see a preview of the site’s landing page without having to click on an ad (and hence costing the advertiser money). Advertisers won’t have to pay for clicks on the Instant Preview button.

Judging from today’s announcement, these previews will currently remain limited to ads on Google’s own search results pages and will not appear on third-party sites that use Google AdSense.

Rumors that Google was testing this feature first appeared late last week. Google is rolling this new feature out in the U.S. today and plans to make it available in the rest of the world within the next few weeks.

4:07 pm

Mozilla's Asa Dotzler: "Chrome Team is Bowing to Pressure from Google's Advertising Business"


Among the major browser vendors, Google’s Chrome is currently the only one that has not signed on to use the Do Not Track feature that Mozilla has been lobbying for. While Microsoft, Apple, Firefox and Opera have either already implemented this feature or will do so soon, Google is still holding out. According to Mozilla’s director of community development Asa Dotzler, the “Chrome team is bowing to pressure from Google’s advertising business and that’s a real shame.” Indeed, Dotzler says in his blog post, this situation is similar to what happened when Netscape released version 7.0 of its browser.

For Netscape 7.0, which according to Dotzler “was basically Mozilla 1.0 with a Netscape theme and a couple of proprietary Netscape features,” Netscape decided to remove the pop-up blocker that Mozilla 1.0 had just developed. The Netscape team had to bow to the pressure of AOL/Netscape as those sites depended on advertising money (including pop-up ads) to fund their work. The next version of Netscape did include the pop-up blocker, but excluded all Netscape/AOL/Time-Warner sites from this by default.

Pressure from Advertisers – Or Something Else?

It’s hard to say if it’s really pressure from Google’s advertising side that is keeping Chrome from supporting the Do Not Track feature. In its current form, browsers that support this feature just sent a header to the server that tells the publisher and advertiser that this particular user is opting out from being tracked. In its current form, this feature is – at best – a public demonstration that you would like to opt out, but advertisers don’t have to honor it. Indeed, you can’t even know if advertisers have seen it and intent to respect your choice. As such, pleading support to a feature that currently has no real effect is pretty easy at this point.

This could change in the long run, though. Given that various government agencies have started to look into online tracking and its privacy implications, online advertisers have every interest in supporting this feature if they want to continue to self-regulate without interference from Washington. In the comments on his post, Dotzler rightly notes that it’ll be impossible to get 100% of advertisers to agree to using this feature. Once you get a majority of them on board, though, you can “shame the remaining 20% by telling the user when they visit those sites that those sites aren’t honoring their wishes”

So what do you think? Is the Chrome team under pressure from the rest of Google to ignore this Do Not Track feature? Or is Google just waiting to see what happens and will implement this later?

10:37 am

Twitter Reacts to the #Dickbar Uproar: Not Killing It – Just Making it a Little Bit Less Annoying


When Twitter launched the latest version of its iPhone app a few days ago, most users were more than happy to get auto-completion for names and hashtags, among many other improvements. The fact that Twitter now prominently featured the top trending topics in its app – including the promoted trends that Twitter gets paid for – was, according to many users, a major negative of this version and was seen as a sneaky way to push ads to users without delivering any additional value. Some, including the intrepid Apple-watcher John Gruber, even went as far as reverting back to an older backup of their iPhone to get the old version back.

Today, however, just as the complaints gained steam thanks to the #dickbar hashtag on Twitter itself (named after Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo), the company’s self-described “communications guy” Sean Garrett announced that Twitter had already submitted a new version of the app to Apple yesterday “that makes it so the quick bar doesn’t overlay on Tweets.”

While the fact that the quick bar was often blocking the view of some tweets was indeed annoying, the problem here is that the whole concept of the quick bar is annoying to begin with. Indeed, most of the complaints I’ve seen so far have more to do with the existence of the quick bar in the first place and not the way the trends were displayed.

Instead of just fixing this minor bug, Twitter should just make it either optional or giving users a way to pay for the app to make it go away. It’s understandable that Twitter wants to push promoted trends (though, of course, the fact that they have to be promoted means they aren’t really trends to begin with…). In a tweet he posted a short while ago, however, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo argued that giving users the option to turn this feature off would be an “inelegant implementation.” In other tweets, including this one directed at Robert Scoble, he  also argued that Twitter should have left the promoted tweets out of the quick bar.

The underlying problem here (more so than the inelegant implementation) seems to be that Twitter thinks there is value in seeing these trends, while for many users, they are simply useless reminders of the fact that there are a lot of Justin Bieber and Charlie Sheen fans on Twitter, too.


Of course, there are also multiple other Twitter clients for iOS that you could use if you don’t like the official ones. Among the best are the Seesmic app and Echofon.

7:27 pm

Don't Track Me: Google Makes Opting Out of Ad and Data Tracking Easy


About two years ago, Google launched a browser plugin that allowed users to opt out of the company’s ads tracking mechanism. By tracking your moves around the Internet, Google – and most other advertising companies – can ensure that you see relevant ads (read: ads you are likely to click) on the pages you visit. Today, just a few hours after Mozilla announced its plan to offer a do-not-track tool for Firefox, Google announced its own Chrome plugin that allows users to permanently opt out of personalized ads and data tracking from not just Google but a wide range of other online advertising companies as well.

According to Google, there are currently 50 advertising companies that are part of the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), including the 15 largest ad networks, that will now let you opt out of data tracking through this plugin. While the add-on is currently only available for Google’s own browser, the company has released the source code on an open-source basis and plans to make it available for other browsers as well.

Keep My Opt-Outs Chrome Web Store

Until now, Google’s opt-out mechanism – and that of its competitors – worked reasonably well, but every time you cleared your browsers’ cookies, you would lose your settings. This new tool makes your choices permanent.

Once you have installed the plugin, you can head over to About Ads, the “Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising” to check if the plugin works.

So what changes once you install the plugin? According to Google, “you may see the same ads repeatedly on particular websites, or see ads that are less relevant to you.” Not much of a price to pay if you want to keep your browsing habits a bit more private.

Clearly, Google isn’t doing this just out of the goodness of its heart. There has been a lot of pressure on online advertising companies to enhance their users’ privacy. In the U.S., for example, the FTC just issued a major report on Internet privacy in December that endorses the idea of a “do-not-track list.” Instead of dealing with federal regulations, the advertising industry would obviously prefer to self-regulate and plugins like this are a step in this direction.


10:47 am

Old Spice Man Fields Questions from the Internet: Here are His Answers


The Old Spice Man (“I’m on a horse”) is fielding questions from Internet users on Reddit today. Here are his answers.

1. Squidboots: If you were alone in the woods, and no one were around to smell you, would you smell as manly and awesome?

2. Chmown: How can I smell like fighting and space shuttles?

3. Porknog: Dear Old Spice Man, How many times should I lather, rinse, and repeat? My wife says I’m going to get a rash if I keep this up.

4. Desimusxvii: Is it true you tore the wings off Pegasus and ate them buffalo style to achieve the manliness you exhibit today?

If yes, please recount your battle with the beast. If no, please do this immediately.

5. Robotjox: If you could meet one great historical figure, then arm wrestle them while signing opera, who would it be?





1:21 pm