It’s an interesting strategy, but one I’ve got some concerns about.
In my day job at Vibrant Media I write code that analyses web pages and searches for adverts in our inventory that match the context of the page. If the webpage talks a lot about tires we try and show an advert for a car, if the page is about technology we avoid ads for gossip magazines. It’s all done using mathematics, most of which comes out of the brain of the very nice chap who sits next to me. We have something called the Max86 list, a list of words that ensure that if we see them on a page we won’t advertise on them. In the case of Jan Moirs piece we wouldn’t have displayed ads on it as dead celebrities get added as soon as possible. It’s one of the things that makes our products more interesting to ad agencies as they avoid bad publicity pro-actively.
Now imagine Vibrant Media were very successful, so successful that most agencies used us. Then look at how most websites, even big newspaper sites, are funded – through advertising, and a flaw becomes apparent. Publishers will not tackle controversial issues because hitting our Max86 list will mean a drop in revenue.
Amusingly(?) the reverse is happening right now, as the intarweb spreads news of the article and links to it, the ad view count gets every higher on the page and the Daily Mail profits from everyone who goes look at the article. Fortunately the facebook group has the wit to take a screen shot and post that but they still link to it.