Forbes.com Nixes Ad Links in Editorial

NEW YORK After experimenting with a relatively new form of advertising that converts keywords in editorial content into pay-for-placement hyperlinks, Forbes.com said it has decided to discontinue the practice based on negative feedback from staff journalists.

“Forbes.com recently made a decision about the embedded ad initiative, which we experimented with this summer and into early fall,” said Forbes.com president and chief executive Jim Spanfeller in a statement to Adweek. “While the general feedback was more positive than negative, our editorial staff was uncomfortable with the concept, and we therefore decided not to continue placing these ads in any staff-generated content at this point in time.”

The ad links, however, will still appear in tear sheets and related profiles, which are not considered editorial content on Forbes.com.

In August, the New York-based online publisher started to use Vibrant Media’s IntelliTXT technology to insert advertising into Web articles [IQ Daily Briefing, Aug. 3]. When a user rolls his or her mouse over a green, double-underlined word, a small ad pops up that relates to that copy.

Forbes.com tested the ad format through the summer and into the fall, monitoring the acceptance level of readers, advertisers and staff journalists. IntelliTXT has been criticized in some interactive and journalistic circles for merging ads and editorial, which is akin to combining church and state.

The Web property is known for its aggressive tactics to attract marketers, and Spanfeller said it would “continue to seek out and experiment with innovative new advertising concepts.” Two years ago, the company introduced a program that promised to reimburse any advertiser that committed to spend at least $100,000 over 60 days on the site if they did not see a statistically significant boost in their brand metrics. The spending level rose to $150,000 last January.

Getting Forbes.com to try its technology was a substantial coup for Vibrant Media, which this spring started targeting mainstream publishers after a year of doing business mainly with vertical sites such as The Auto Channel and BetaNews.com.

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