When searching, I am always interested to see who is paying for the sponsored ads for my query. A while back I searched for some information on the Cory Lidle plane crash and was completely surprised to see iVillage and the New York Times paying for my attention:
My initial assumption was that most people today use search to obtain information, regardless of the type. In the case of news, or other recent communications, Google or Yahoo will not be ranking recent stories within the first day. For late breaking news, a large newspaper can effectively solve this information gap by paying a few cents per click. After talking about this with a few people, I came up with a number of different reasons newspapers could be turning to search advertising:
- Search gap: People tend to use search for most of their information, and a few cents can grab a lot of attention when you are a news source people recognize.
- Higher monetization: Ads on Google and Yahoo! clock in at lower values than one page view on the news site.
- Reader acquisition: In the world of online news, it is tough to differentiate, so paying for readers could pay off when acquired readers convert to regulars.
- SEO: Someone on-staff has a budget to use on attracting traffic, and search advertising seems like a good use of funds. A few clicks turn into a few links, and there you go.
What happens when our news outlets start paying for readers? This may be an example of the right hand not talking to the left, but the fact that the New York Times, of all newspapers, is the first I saw using search marketing makes me think a little differently about the master of mass media. “All the news that’s fit to print” is now a few degrees closer to “Viagra, Levitra and Cialis” in my head, but maybe this is just a temporary phenomenon. It feels like a major shift in the way news is disseminated, but I might be jumping to conclusions.