AFF and a friend on the inside

I recently presented AdSense for Feeds at the Google Factory Tour for bloggers, journalists and any brave souls who watched the webcast. Why me? Because I worked with the AdSense team to build this product and the lead PM on this project was travelling back from New York. In other words, you have a blogger on the inside Tim.

To answer Tim Bray's questions. On our AFF questionaire we ask roughly how many subscribers you think are subscribed to your feed. Tim says:

I bet most feed publishers either just don’t know, or believe in a number produced by their ISP’s stats package which is almost certainly wrong.

I think we are looking for an approximation and since this is new territory, I think we can expect a bit of variance. As they say, some information is better than none.

Tim's second question is about some of our legal text in the T's and C's: have to agree that “You will ensure that each feed user complies with, and each feed user’s display of AFF Ads is in compliance with, all of the terms and conditions of the amended Agreement applicable to the Site in the same manner that such terms and conditions apply to You and the Site.”

You know, that sounds kind of odd to me too. That's why I've asked some folks internally if we can make that text any clearer. Stay tuned for an update.

This all brings up a wider question? Why do we bloggers look for a man or woman on the inside? I'm guessing it's because of the networked conversations that Doc and Co. wrote about years ago in the Cluetrain, that smart companies should engage and avoid the carpet-bombing approach to PR and communications. It's admittedly hard to get right, even for someone who wants to do the right thing.

For instance, I don't blog much these days because I'm extremely busy working on a new initiative at Google and while I might feel that I have something to add to the conversation, I am not a full time communications, marketing or PR professional. I'm certainly not afraid of or restricted from blogging. At the end of the day there are products to manage, calls to make, meetings to attend, and on top of that a growing family at home.

I don't know how some of you manage to have such rich and fantastic blogs, but I'm lucky if I add a few things to my moblog or linkblog these days. I don't know if it's a case of "When your winning...", or if the stream just gets a little quicker when it's gushing and it's all you can do to paddle. Though I don't blog as much as I would like, I'm certainly reading a ton and so are a lot of smart folks over here in Mountain View. Some of them even have time to blog more than I. However, sometimes it's nice just to have a friend that listens. I'm listening and acting behind the scenes mostly these days, I hope you don't mind. I'll do what I can to make sure it's still a two-way conversation.


  1. I think AFF is a common abbrieviation for "Adult Friend Finder". Not that I frequent that site, because I don't.

  2. Hey Jason, we're always happy to let users know how many subscribers they have... :)


    Rick Klau
    VP, Business Development
    FeedBurner -
    rickk -at- feedburner -dot- com
    office: 312.442.9490
    cell: 630.362.8911

  3. Jason, while you're at the legal "debugging", I found it a bit silly to have this in the Ts & Cs as well...

    "Confidential Information. Google Confidential Information will include the existence and content of these AFF Terms and any information provided pursuant to the amended Agreement."

  4. What I'm surprised at is that no-one seems to have noticed how application (and hence user)-unfriendly the practice of sticking the ad in the content element is. Ads are significantly different from the original content, surely they should appear either in separate elements (the title is separate, the date is separate, even the link is separate...) or even as discrete items themselves. This would maximise the potential utility for consumers, at virtually no cost to the producer.

  5. Danny - I think that a top level item as a feed is deceptive. Additionally, our idea is that an ad should be contextually relevant for a particular entry. I think general ads are less useful for users, which is the whole point here.

  6. What could be more deceptive than placing an ad in a part of the feed clearly marked up to be content?

    Whether the ads are contextual or general doesn't matter. The association between an ad and a specific piece of content can be made in no end of different ways (for example, as a namespaced element within the item say google:ad).

    All I'm suggesting is that the ads should be labelled as such in a manner that machines can read (without scraping).

  7. I am interested in AdSense for feeds from a few angles - probably the same angles as most other publishers.

    I am in the early stages of developing a website with travel stories. It is a lot of work to do it well - both to make it look good, and write and edit quality content. To say nothing of the actual research! Sure, I love travelling, but it is expensive and time-consuming. So if I see my readership increasing, but mostly through feeds, I have mixed feelings. Good, people like it! But I am looking revenue potential if they don't see the ads. I'm not doing this just for fun! Maybe I should just shut feeds off? Or have two websites: one that summarized the stories for feedsters, with ample links to a feed-disabled website, where anyone who wants to read the full content and see all the photos can go if they want to. Oh, and see the ads too!

    As a consumer of feeds, I'd not want ads to ruin the content. To this end, I expect to have as much control over the format, colours and placement of ads in a feed, as I do on the original web page.


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