February 26, 2009

Ads in Google news aren’t entirely relevant — yet

Google recently announced it had started placing ads on Google News pages. One of my teachers on such things, John Battelle, wonders if there will be a backlash.

The early results in the little world of the Pew Internet Project don’t yield really relevant results. For instance, several queries on Google News for “Pew Internet” kicks out sponsored ads for several kinds of things related to churches like supplies and ordination programs, but nothing on any of the big research topics we explore. Those who buy the keyword “pew” aren’t thinking about broadband or wireless connectivity or e-health or online teens.

(And just for the record, the word “Pew” in our name has no religious connotation. It comes from the family name associated with our funders at the Pew Charitable Trusts. A history of the foundation is located here.)

Back to ads in Google News. How about a search on “Pew Research”, our beloved parent organization? Again, several church-related sponsored links appear, but nothing directly tied to the extensive work of most of our colleagues here at the Center, especially the research that focuses on politics and media.

Ironically, a search for the specific part of the Pew Research Center that focuses on religion doesn’t kick back any religion-related links. Several searches on Google News for “Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life” yield either no sponsored links or a sponsored link for a secular interview show about music.

Eventually, everyone hopes the semantic web will make sense of all this.

In the meantime, Battelle has raised a big question: How are news organizations going to react to the fact that Google is now making money by aggregating their material?