I recently discovered Nicholas Carr’s excellent blog Rough Type. Two recent posts are worth noting. First, he comments on the Google AdSense policy of only paying publishers when they earn more than $100 in their AdSense account:
Google doesn’t seem to disclose how many sites are enrolled in AdSense, but it has to be a hell of a lot. Last year, Google took in about $2.7 billion through ads on other people’s sites, accounting for 44% of its ad revenues. Most of that money probably came through big sites, but a decent portion must have come from the little guys. When you add up all the under-$100 AdSense balances earned by the Scott Karps of the world, the total must be a pretty impressive number. That’s free working capital for Google, or it can invest the stash and make even more money. It’s a devilishly good idea.
But it gets even better. Once a little publisher gets a little balance in his account, he becomes more likely to stick with the AdSense program. After all, he doesn’t want to “lose” the money he’s already earned (and, like Karp, he probably doesn’t realize that he would be able to get it by terminating his account). He struggles on, earning a penny here and a penny there, waiting month after month for the $100 mark to arrive. He becomes another Google sharecropper, one of the thousands working the rocky soil of the AdSense plantation. And all the while Google gets to hold onto the poor sap’s meager earnings, using them for its own purposes. In many cases, I’m sure, the less-than-$100 balances never get collected, and Google gets to pocket them for good.
Nick follows this observation with cutting commentary on another AdSense policy which states, in part, that “You shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to … engage in any action or practice that reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill.” Nick’s thoughts:
So before they can run ads from Google, publishers have to agree to refrain from doing anything – like publishing an article, say – that “reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill”? Hmm. Can you imagine the outcry if a mainstream media outlet like the Washington Post agreed not to say bad things about a company in return for advertising dollars? And yet that’s exactly what Google seems to be demanding from bloggers and other online publishers. (Actually, come to think of it, the Washington Post and a lot of other mainstream publishers do run ads from Google on their web sites; I wonder if they agreed to this term or if they were given a different contract.) Yahoo, by the way, doesn’t have such a clause in its contract for its ad-serving network.