Usually grouped together under a label like “Promoted Stories” or “Around the Web,” these links are often advertisements dressed up to look like stories people might want to read. They have long provided much-needed revenue for publishers and given a wide range of advertisers a relatively affordable way to reach large and often premium audiences.
But now, some publishers are wondering about the effect these so-called content ads may be having on their brands and readers. This month, these ads stopped appearing on Slate. And The New Yorker, which restricted placement of such ads to its humor articles, recently removed them from its website altogether.
Among the reasons: The links can lead to questionable websites, run by unknown entities.
Sounds pretty terrible for readers. Just listen to Matt Crenshaw, VP of product marketing at Outbrain, one of the companies selling these terrible ads:
“As this space has grown up, this is becoming a very significant percentage-wise revenue source for publishers. We have been told from major, major publishers that we have become their No. 1 revenue provider,” he said, declining to name specific companies.
Herrman’s erstwhile colleague at the Awl, John Mahoney, previously produced an excellent and complete taxonomy of internet chum, the term given to these awful pieces of shit.