Forbes.com Tests Ad Links in Editorial

NEW YORK Forbes.com has begun to experiment with a relatively new form of advertising that converts keywords in editorial content into pay-for-placement hyperlinks.

The New York-based online publisher confirmed today that it is using Vibrant Media’s IntelliTXT technology to insert advertising into Web articles. When a user rolls his or her mouse over a green, double-underlined word, a small ad pops up that relates to that word.

Forbes.com said it is testing the ad format through the summer, 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.

Jim Spanfeller, president and chief executive at Forbes.com, called the controversial ad placement an “experiment,” saying that it will help the site gain an understanding of what works.

The Web property is known for its aggressive tactics to attract marketers. 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 in January.

Getting Forbes.com to try its technology is 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. The San Francisco-based company has projected revenue of $25 million this year.