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The YouTube-AdSense death toll

October 09, 2007

Over at the Techmemeograph, the news that Google is going to slap banner ads above some YouTube videos and syndicate them through its AdSense network is being rapidly duplicated. "Here comes the money," declares Marshall Kirkpatrick. Maybe so, but I tend to share the skepticism of Om Malik, who says the move "shows that Google is still struggling to figure out how to make money from its YouTube acquisition."

More important to me, frankly, is the question of how many web surfers are going to die needless deaths because of this move. I'm sure I don't have to remind you of how Google used to brag about the way its refusal to serve banner ads was literally saving people's lives - a claim that earned it some fawning press coverage. Sergey Brin would point to the case where a fellow was in the early stages of a heart attack and went online to find out what he should do. As Fortune Small Business reported:

He started using one search engine, but it was too slow because the banner ads were loading, so he switched to Google. After getting the information he needed, he headed to the hospital immediately ... "Not only did our search engine save his life, but it shows that these decisions - like whether to use text-based or graphical ads - matter," says Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google.

I don't think Brin talks about this story so much anymore. While Google has yet to incorporate graphical ads into its search pages, it does serve millions of them up to outside sites through AdSense. I wonder how many people in the throes of a medical emergency have rushed to a health care information site only to find themselves helplessly waiting for some big animated AdSense ad to load (and, as well, the Google Analytics code to run). Now, these poor souls are also going to have to endure the loading of YouTube videos and their accompanying ads. I can only hope that they've kept up with their life insurance premiums.

Implicit in Sergey Brin's claim that Google saved lives by only serving text ads was the accusation that companies that served graphical ads were putting people's lives at risk. It was, of course, an absurdly self-righteous claim, but it did get the company some good PR mileage. Now that Google is happily gumming up the web, it's only fair that the company be held to the same stern accounting it applied to its competitors. As Brin would say, these decisions matter.


I think this blogger is trying to be funny. No sufferer of a heart attack should be searching for information using YouTube! If I am not wrong, watching scantily clad dancers on the myriad MTVs available on YouTube probably caused the heart attack in the first place. =)

Posted by: Allen Tan [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 11:56 AM


Posted by: Nick Carr [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 12:26 PM

Never mind NC, I found it funny.

Allen Tan - I think the semi-serious point is that YouTube videos may now be served up by all kinds of sites, not just by YouTube itself, so a scantily-clad-dance watcher with a heart attack goes to a medical site, only to have to wait for the Google-driven video links to load.

Posted by: tom s. [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 04:07 PM

None of you is considering the real damage: all these ads will be served by a computing farm —— or trailer park to use a following post: I should stick to the trailer park analogy, it's more vivid —— that pollutes. How many people will die of asma in Europe because of the toxic cloud coming from the Silicon Valley? See, on a much more serious blog the scale of that issue:

How much can we ask to the US government for that?

Truth is: Google Ads relevance can lead to amazing sights. I will always remember, in Gmail, next to the e-mail of my girl friend dumping me, ads for a dating service.

Posted by: Bertil [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 05:01 PM

I don't think Youtube will ever put ads on the side of a video or on top of a video, but more like they will embed or pre-roll a commercial before the youtube player will play the main content. Adbrite has such a program.

Posted by: xufon.com [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 13, 2007 10:57 PM

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