Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Give a good Goggle at this, guys

We're still working on the Mel Keegan OnLine ... when a site is as big as that one has become, it takes constant work. You're always nipping and tucking, adding and deleting something, somewhere. The latest work we've been doing has been on the commercial side -- the term, these days, is "monetization." It's a nice term which basically means, you carry ads alongside your content in the hope that passersby will see something interesting and give you a click or two, all of which helps to pay the costs of running the site.

So far, so good. Visitors to the site lately will have seen ads for software and doodads in support of your laptop, cheap inkjet cartridges, and software, and web hosting. All of which makes sense at least to us ... they're not "gay" ads, as such ... but what, gays don't have computers, and don't use software, and don't need web hosting?! I beg to differ! I'd have to say gay visitors are just as likely as the Andean Pro-Am Knitting League to need all of the above. If not more so.

So, then we thought we'd add some contextual ads. You know the kind: the pop up in your margins and have something to do with the content of your page. Our pages are about books, publishing, writing, gay stories, gay themese. So far, still so good.

Now, we knew better than to try adding in Google Adsense. It's almost a year since Google decided it had something against gays. (I's noticed, a long time ago, that Adsense twaddle didn't appear on gay pages, and a quick surf around turned up this page:

Is Google Homophobic? [on PLU Blogs]

The answer to that question would have to be, since Sept. 07 or so ... yup.

I'll copy over a snippet from the Adsense Team's reply to the publisher's perfectly reasonable question, but I do urge you to follow that link and see the whole situation.

For myself, on my webpage, however, the problem lies herein:

    We currently do not run paid Google ads on web pages that are determined to contain potentially sensitive or mature content by our automatic contextual advertising system. On such pages, no ads or unpaid public service ads may appear.

    We understand that not all pages automatically categorized as sensitive or mature will contain such content. At this time, we are unable to manually alter the page category in order to serve paid Google ads to these pages. However, please note that we are always working to improve our ad serving technology.

    Our policy regarding adult/mature content may include any material that is not appropriate for all audiences. While this obviously includes full nudity or sexual activity, it may also include textually explicit sexual content, some treatments of topics such as sexual health and sex tips, and image or video content containing lewd or provocative poses, strategically covered nudity, see-through or sheer clothing, and close-ups of breasts, butts, or crotches.

    While it's not a sure test, we sometimes suggest that publishers ask the following questions to determine if content is family safe: Would I be comfortable viewing this content in the same room with my mother or father? daughter or son? seven year old sister? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then it is likely that some advertisers would not be comfortable showing their ads on such content and we might consider it mature.

    Therefore we ask that you only place Google ads on pages that comply with our program policies.
    [Source: http://www.plublogs.com/articles/74/1/Is-Google-Homophobic/Page1.html ... GO THERE, please, see the original, leave a comment, give your support]

From the above, you can pull out these three pivital points:

1. Gay and gay friendly pages are vetted by a machine which is scanning for nudie pictures and keywords (and you can bet your bottom dollar, "gay" is one of them).

2. The DIY-vetting critera involve the page being rated kosher for SEVEN YEAR OLDS.

3. This is Google's policy, take it or leave it.

Well ... we decided to leave Adsense alone, and we signed with Adbrite instead (more on this later, because the story gets stranger).

This afternoon I spent a short while over coffee, surfing around to see what's going on, on the rest of the web. I found numerous forums and blogs with publishers complaining bitterly that hetero sites can be as crude and explicit as they like, and yet -- there are their Adesense ads, no problem with the vetting, even though, on the criteria outlined above by the Google Team itself, they should fail miserably.

However, there's more. A while ago, in the course of working on another site (I'm involved with several), I examined how Adsense works, with a view to eventually having those ads on an alternate site that's not so much un-gay as simply genderless. No romantic context, much less content. At that time, I discovered that some advertisers are willing to pay upwards of $2.50 per click to buy advertising!!!

Woah. That's nice money. Now, contrast this with the info, on the above linked-to page, where gay publisher PLU Blogs (dot com) reports Google's payout, on the other end of the scale as (get this) less than 1c per click. Now, I'll grant you, advertisers might be offering to pay as little as 10c to buy ads on a gay page ... but I doubt it sincerely. Stay with me a while.

Advertisers will pay roughly $1 to buy a click on the keyword "write." They'll pay roughly $2 for a click on "write your own." They'll pay $2.75 for a click on "how to write articles." And 50c for "how to write a play." And 55c for "how to write an outline."

Now, can you imagine how much advertisers would be ready to pay for a click on keywords such as "gay friendly resort," and "gay cruise-ship" or "gay accommodation" and "gay friendly travel bookings" ...? The GLBTIQ community has a lot of money to lash around, what with being over-achievers with a high percentage if DINKism.

So, YOU do the math. My guess is, gay advertising pays *TO* Google at least as much as they make from the "tell me how to write" marketplace. You can just bet the ads are earning $1 - $2 a click.

But those ads, on a gay site, earn (and I quote) less than 1c. It's no wonder Google's worth billions. No prizes will be awarded from figuring out where the money is coming from.

Other commercial webmasters -- entirely non-gay, on another forum -- were complaining just as bitterly about their incomes being cut from .25c - .40c per click, as earned in 2005/6, down to maybe 10c and 20c currently. But that's still 20 times more than Google will pay out to a gay publisher.

Food for thought, isn't it? And it gets even stranger. Read on...

While I was hunting around to see if I can find out what the hell is going on, I stumbled over numerous hetero publishers complaining plaintively about GAY ADSENSE ADS FOR PORN SITES BEING SERVED TO ON THEIR FAMILY ORIENTED WEBPAGES!!

They were admonished and told to have patience, that Adsense routinely "goes haywire." So, on the other end of the scale here you have sites that are perfectly geared to the aforementioned seven year olds -- meanin (!) there are seven year olds parked in front of them, happily reading ads for "Gay Porn Stars," featuring various body parts to get friendly with, and sundry exhortations to become orally familiar with a variety of appendages. (And let's see Google's textual vetting algorithm untangle that one!)

They apparently goof up regularly and (get this) frequently serve gay porn ads to hetero family sites.

What's this? They're in the business of SELLING gay porn ads???

Therefore, they SELL Adsense ads *TO* gay porn sites.

Uh ... where do they expect to park those ads? Under what context, since all pages carrying Adsense need to be suitabe for little kids? And who's going to get paid by clicking them, since they can't possibly appear anywhere according to Google's own TOS ... unless they somehow slip through the cracks and land haphazardly almost anywhere. And from what I've been reading this afternoon, they do. Routinely.

Oh ... dear. All the more reason to stay the hell away from Google Adsense, if you're a gay-friendly site, right? Right. So we did.

We signed with Adbite, and the reasoning was, if Adbrite is anything like Google, they SELL gay ads galore (Google does -- the proof is popping up on family sites routinely -- oops, by accident), and since Adbrite doesn't have a gender-prejudiced TOS statement, they should be happy to have somewhere gay friendly to park the occasional gay ad. Right?

Well, it's logical, hand it to us. We're nothing if not logical folks here.

The ads went up today, and with baited breath we read the teaser blurbs for ... Christmas hampers, florists, travel insurance, car hire, share trading, broadband access, furniture removal, carpet cleaning...

Which is not to say that gays don't need to clean their carpets and send flowers and hire cars and use broadband. But ... *sigh*

The occasional gay ad would be nice. Somewhere. Sometime. I mean, since there are so many of them that floating around in the Google Adesense system they somehow teleport themselves onto family sites, to the chagrin of all.

So, Tuesday finds me a little aggravated (at Google) and more than a little confused.

Updates will doubtlessly follow.

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