Google Blogoscoped

Monday, August 21, 2006

Washington Post Sells Blogroll Links

The Washington Post has started to sell off (no nofollowed) text links for blogs on their PageRank 9 homepage*. It’s called a “sponsored blogroll” (yeah right, like that’s a blogroll) currently linking to blogs and non-blogs using keywords such as “Las Vegas Travel,” “Personal Finance,” and “Cruise Packages”. Steve Rubel calls this “a fantastic way for a newspaper to build relationships with bloggers.” The WP writes:

The Sponsored Blogroll is an index on the homepage that promotes bloggers who are participating in a partnership with the advertising team of WPNI. If you are a blogger or blog network looking to expand your readership and advertising, our Sponsored Blogroll program can be the boost you’ve been looking for.

And the WP’s Jeff Burkett writes the following, hinting at some kind of ad exchange (pretending their program is aimed to help smaller blogs – I don’t buy it at this point):

Basically, all of the B-list and C-list bloggers (who may well be very talented) link to the A-list blogs in hope of getting noticed. All this accomplishes is making the A-listers more powerful, while the B’s and C’s stay where they are. It is very hard to break through the clutter, as many of you know. (...)

Some bloggers are open to putting advertising on their site, so why not strike deals with them and help them do that. The revenue gets shared (in the bloggers favor of course) and we throw in one additional component...A link to their blog on the homepage of

The blogroll itself is rather hidden on the frontpage – it’s not hard to find it, but on the other hand, you also won’t see it at all on a 1280x960 pixels display – but its real value may be the linkjuice it passes on.

Advertisers need to watch out, though; Google can turn off the linkjuice-passing ability of any individual web page (even though the WP’s homepage may be too important to disable its PR-passing ability). Then again, I don’t think the WP passes a lot of linkjuice in that ad position in the first place; their homepage contains 390 links (we have reasons to assume Google divides the PR-passing value among all of the links on a page) and the ad starts at way over 100K of previous content. According to Barry Schwartz, the links also rotate, further diminishing their value.

Well, I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about selling text links. Google considers it “outside their guidelines to get PageRank via buying links,” but it’s in their best interest to think so – they want every web owner to go for Google AdSense, after all (they even hardcode AdSense into some of their tools, shutting out competitors in this space). Using nofollow or not is more of a personal choice – this is not an official W3C attribute and last time I checked, web users don’t need to sign the Google ToS to surf the web or publish content on it. On the other hand, the Washington Post may suffer as soon as it links to shady neighborhoods without using a “link condom.”

[Thanks Tadeusz Szewczyk and Ionut Alex. Chitu.]

*Whe WP already has a text-links feature called “Featured Advertiser Links” – it might be older, I don’t know.


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