In-text Context

There’s been a recent burp in the market for on-line content management, driven primarily by the increasing adoption of in-text advertising. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, it’s pretty much as it sounds; keyword based advertising within the body of text-centric copy, triggered by a double hyperlinked word. Or in other words, if you’re reading an article and you see a word that is double underlined and run your mouse over it, a pop-up window appears with specifics on that word, if you click on it, you’re taken to the sponsor’s site.

Somewhat surprisingly, the overall reaction to this technology appears to be negative. “Intrusive”, “Annoying”, “Distracting”, are the most common terms used by consumers to describe this type of service. This once again tells me there is a lack of pompetus (if this makes no sense, check my blog from 1.24.09). Advertising can and should be incredibly useful and effective, if it’s done correctly (the right message to the right person at the right time); if not, words like intrusive, annoying, and distracting will follow in your wake. The most likely cause for all the negativity is not a lack of proper context for the ad (after all, the in-text word is in an article, which pretty much cements in context), it is most likely related to lack of proper positioning and a clearly articulated value proposition for the service itself.

Not many folks outside the advertising domain are going to know what in-text advertising is, or how it works; the comments I’ve seen posted on blogs indicate a pretty fundamental lack of understanding. There’s no particular reason to be waving your mouse all over an article as you read it (which is what triggers the pop-up), which tells me the people complaining probably need remedial mouse lessons. The concept itself makes a huge amount of sense; if I’m reading an article about Alzheimer’s and the word “Aricept” is double-linked, and that link takes me to the manufacturer’s page, that’s incredibly useful information delivered in context, which in theory should have a high pompetus factor.

The issue here is not the technology, it’s the marketing of the technology. Most people are easily intimidated by new technology, particularly if they think they’ve done something wrong. Proper marketing would have put the word out far and wide that this new capability is being introduced, why, and what the benefits are to the end user. None of that has happened (apparently) and so instead of having large numbers of people taking advantage of a really useful service, the overall tone is one of anger and mistrust. The really annoying thing to me as a marketer is that the whole market response to this was completely avoidable.

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