Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Britney/suicide problem with AJAX

An article on the problems of AJAX and advertising by Fredric Paul of TechWeb, linked by Rafat Ali and Jason Calacanis, cover an issue which is important to me. I brought it up on the WebmasterWorld forums last September.

Ajax presents a problem for AdSense publishers, who rely in many cases on the user clicking on reload to refresh pages with new ads, the better for them to notice them, or visiting new pages to get different ads (which is why most long text articles are cut up into multiple pages). Automated refreshing of the AdSense frame without having a full page reload is currently banned by G.

If you have a page for which the main content is live Ajax code delivering dynamically updated information - e.g. a live sports score page, or a bunch of stock tickers, or a photo album slide show, or live news feeds - which you'd expect the user to be watching for 10 minutes or more on that same page, you're delivering a better user experience at the cost of potential revenue. With other ad networks it is possible to cycle through ads on such pages, but not on AdSense. Can anyone suggest a solution to this problem?

Fredric doesn't have an answer, and neither do Rafat or Jason (come on Jase, you thought of this topic months ago and didn't blog it? Yeah right!). I worked through in that WMW thread to something approaching an answer, although I foresaw problems with implementation, viz:

One technical problem that G's engineers would have trouble solving is figuring out how to serve updated ads relevant to dynamically-generated content. For example, say the page is a news feed. When the page gets served originally, the feed's big story is about Britney Spears so G would serve Britney-related ads. But what if the feed updates with a story about a teen suicide? Britney ads are no longer relevant. It's a worry.

My solution is for someone - most likely Google - to lead the way by introducing a new variable in their JavaScript, which for the sake of argument I'll call google_ajax_update. This would contain all text that is subject to dynamic updating in an AJAX page - which the page would have to update accordingly through AJAX, of course. So that in the Britney/suicide example, on the initial load of the page the google_ajax_update variable would contain the text of the Britney story, and on the second pass it would contain the suicide story. The fact that the variable is set at all would alert the Google server to update the ad every X seconds, which might be preset by Google but would more likely be definable by the publisher using another variable within non-spammy limits (i.e. not every five seconds, maybe 30 or 60 seconds minimum). Of course, this technique could also be used for chat rooms, so that if conversation in Campfire, 3bubbles or Newsvine moves from one topic to another the keywords could be fed into the script.

It's likely that there are other pitfalls and holes in my theory, technical or social, but I'm sure the poindexters at the big G can allocate enough of their pulsing grey matter to the problem to prevent griefing. Chop chop!


Anonymous leisa said...

holy crap, you gave me a heart attack! I thought for a moment there that something had happened to Britney ;)

11:22 pm, April 26, 2006  

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