Mark Glaser analyses the offerings from Google and Yahoo:
The first rule of thumb for contextual ads is the opposite of the old local TV news maxim, “If it bleeds, it leads.” In the case of hard news related to war, terrorism, rapes, murders and other unpleasant current events, the best bet could be to remove contextual ads or just run more generic run-of-site ads. Of course, some site publishers have no problem with hawking commemorative Iraqi War playing cards on stories about people dying in the war.
Yahoo’s ContentMatch uses various sensitivity filters for what ads are shown with content — along with human oversight from a staff of more than 100 editorial people. Paul Volen, who is vice president of product marketing for Yahoo Search Marketing, told me that Yahoo’s human oversight is what differentiates his service from Google’s.
“First, we do have a dynamic proprietary algorithm which takes the theme of a page and matches advertising to it,” Volen told me. “We also add a layer of editorial oversight to that. We look at a site and try to understand if there’s content that’s evergreen and won’t change, like index pages that are generic and aren’t updated every day. In those cases, we could have the editorial staff look at them and come up with the best matches. We work with the publishers pretty closely across their site to figure out how we want to attack the relevancy and matching.”
Google doesn’t have an editorial staff for AdSense, but does assign account managers to bigger sites for the premium level of AdSense services — though it is only available for sites above 20 million page views per month. Gokul Rajaram, group product manager for Google AdSense, told me that there are just too many dynamic pages served for humans to watch every ad that’s served up.