SearchEngineLand is reporting that Ask.com is launching a contextual search ad network on their own content properties such as Ticketmaster.com, Evite.com, and Match.com on May 21st. They then may roll this product out to third-party publishers next quarter.
First, it’s good to see more competition in the contextual ad network space. Google has been too dominant, and the more options for publishers the better. (For an easy to test and compare multiple ad networks, check out Direct Media Exchange).
But the question as always is how will this offering be any different from Google Adsense and the Yahoo Publisher Network? If it’s not different in some better way for publishers, it won’t be able to compete initially on revenue alone just due to a smaller advertiser base.
Ask.com answers that question with this from SearchEngineLand:
The publishers will have two unique features that are not currently available in the Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network. Publishers will be able to set “page yield thresholds” and set “relevancy thresholds.” There will be levers to allow publisher to determine if they want higher paying ads or if they want more relevant ads with these levers. In addition, the ads will be unique from that of Google and Yahoo ads. Ask told me that they will allow “very customized” interfaces for the contextual ads; such as customized backgrounds and graphics.
I like that publishers will be able to control the fine line between the highest-paying ads and the most relevant ads. It will be interesting to see how they classify the “highest paying ads”. Are those the ads with the highest bids? Or do they take click rate and bid into account to see which ads are the highest revenue producing ads? And it seems like if they are taking click data into account, often the most relevant ads would probably also end up being the highest revenue producing because of the higher click-through rate they’d encounter.
Unique ads is also good, and taking ad customization further from the competitors is also a nice step. Will they take the step that Google and Yahoo haven’t of actually making the revenue share public to the publisher? That’d be nice to see, but for some reason I doubt it.