The coolness of Google public service ads

I want to get one more post in before putting RT on ice for the last couple of weeks of the summer. I’ve been debating what I should write about.

The obvious choice would be something about Wikipedia – maybe a look at the Battista Agnese entry and what it might tell us about the role of plagiarism in Wikipedia’s creation and success. How prevalent is plagiarism in Wikipedia? Is it a question we even care about? Is plagiarism itself some bourgeois pre-Internet taboo that we’re just as well to be rid of?

Good questions, but I’m going to have to leave them for others. If I ride the Wikipedia horse any longer, I’m going to have to take the old nag out back and shoot it.

Or I could do a follow up to my post yesterday about the system of patronage that has come to characterize the upper ranks of the blogosphere. I think there’s something to be said as well about the blogosphere’s cult of personality and whether it’s a strength or a weakness. T.S. Eliot famously wrote that “poetry is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” Is that true of all good writing? Is it true of journalism? It’s awfully hard to escape personality in the blogosphere.

But that’s pretty eggheaded stuff. I mean, “escape personality”? WTF?

I’ve also been meaning to write a post arguing that the dynamic that defines the way news stories are chosen at Digg is the same dynamic that defines video-game competition. The top Diggers frag the news with the same speed and dexterity that the top gamers frag baddies. It’s all about maximizing the killcount. Is it any coincidence that the demographics of the Digg audience match so closely the demographics of the first-person-shooter audience?

But I don’t have time for that one right now. Let it be noted, though: “fragging the news” is my idea. A search on the term in Google turns up nothing. That’s a rare pleasure. One of the tragic things about Google is that it reminds us daily how unoriginal we are.

No, I’m going to write about something important: My prediction that having a public service AdSense ad on your site will become the new mark of hipness. All cool sites are going to want to have those little text ads about hurricane relief or whatever. In case you don’t know, Google sticks public service ads in AdSense slots whenever the content gets a little too risque, a little too naughty, for its taste. A public service AdSense ad basically screams out: Read this page!

I realized this recently while reading Fake Steve’s blog, which in addition to being nut-bustingly funny offers the most insightful critique of modern technoculture mores I’ve come across. It makes ValleyWag look like, well, ValleyWag. (Memo to Real Steve: Please please please don’t take down Fake Steve. You can have the “pod” trademark. You can have the music monopoly. Hell, you can backdate all the options you want. Just let us have Fake Steve.)

Anyway, I’ve noticed that Fake Steve has had the “Gulf Hurricane Relief” ad at the top of his site for days on end now, probably as a result of his classic series on the infamous Yelp party (here, here, here, and here). The ad is just perfect – it is as great an example of advertising as content as I’ve ever seen. Fake Steve has, intentionally or not, singehandedly revealed the coolness inherent in the Google public service ad.

I want one of those ads on my site, too. But I’m not edgy enough. I get ads for freaking JotSpot and Blogger.

UPDATE: Needed to take a break from vacation to report that Fake Steve pumped up the size of the Google PSA on his home page today, signaling his slavish devotion to Rough Type. The bigger news, though, is that, thanks to reader Sid Steward, Rough Type now has its own customized PSA:

Top that, Fake Steve!

Sid says that you can easily stick this ad on your own site, giving you a faux gloss of edginess while also promoting Rough Type. A nifty two-fer. Make it viral.

UPDATE 2 (August 25): I regret to announce that Fake Steve has lost his edginess. The PSAs are gone, replaced this morning by Google ads for “Bible Ringtone,” Jesus Ringtone,” “Shepherds Care Publishing,” and “101 PowerPoint Sermons.” No joke.

9 thoughts on “The coolness of Google public service ads

  1. MacStansbury

    Huh. I always thought it was because my site couldn’t be indexed by AdSense. Turns out I’ve been wicked hip for years now. I feel better about myself now.

  2. Nick Carr

    You’re right: It can also be a sign of monumental irrelevance (I get an image of Larry Page scratching his head). But that’s pretty cool in itself.

  3. Mickeleh

    Always leave ’em laughing. Thanks for reminding me ow funny Fake Steve is. I’ve neglected it for a couple of weeks. Enjoy your hiatus and hurry back.

  4. Bob Aman

    “Is plagiarism itself some bourgeois pre-Internet taboo that we’re just as well to be rid of?”

    Yes and no. Taking credit for something someone else did is always wrong, but restricting the flow of information in the name of copyright is problematic.

  5. Jim Dermitt

    Writing about popular stuff is more popular and more important than writing important stuff about important stuff. If the important stuff isn’t popular, forget about it. It’s all about buzz and buzz is all about traffic and traffic is all about eyeballs and eyeballs are all about money. We’ll never get to the next big thing, because it’s not popular enough to be important or maybe it’s not important enough to be popular. I’ve been reading a blog about popular blogs which is popular, which I thought was important to my understanding of Web 2.0, which is something popular enough to be popular, but not so important as it turned out. The problem seems to be that once everybody concludes it is important, it becomes popular and then gets bored with it and something else becomes popular until everybody gets bored again. Public service ads help bridge the boredom by reminding everyone what is important so they can get back to focusing on what is popular. It’s pop culture, in search of the eternal buzz and that’s what the real search is for and that’s why it’s important.

  6. Jim Dermitt

    Note: Web 2.0 has peaked in popularity. What’s important now is Third Generation Internet or TGI or 3GI for short. TGIF is coming in a couple of days. Watch for the public service ads over the weekend, showing how cool 3GI’s are.

  7. Nemesis

    I think web 2.0 is all about bringing people together. Yes, communication and cash! Because more people mean more clicks, meaning more money for clever sites that sell ads.

  8. John W Boushka

    Sometimes, with a few of my postings, if I link to that posting by itself, without the other postings on the same blog around it, I get the PSA. This has happened several times with content that is probably PG-13 and acceptable to a human reader, but maybe harder for a computer to parse. I don’t see anything objectionable at all about the yelp parties postings. This seems like a problem in teaching a script what is “objectionable.” It’s not perfect and it does give false positives. My book reviews and drama reviews sometimes get PSA’s when brought up individually.

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