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Friday, December 9, 2005

Gmail Web Clips: Mixing RSS with Ads

David Sanger sent in a screenshot which shows that Google is sometimes using the space above mails in Gmail for advertisement (or at least, they’re experimenting with this). This wouldn’t be worth mentioning if not for the fact this space is also reserved for showing RSS items users subscribed to, Google’s so-called Web Clips which they currently roll out for everyone.

Wether we like it or not, sometimes we’re reminded how Google Inc is making money – they make us look at ads. However, they also are so successful because many think of their ads as useful, not annoying, and not deceiving. In this case it seems as though the Google engineers expect to get higher click-through rates for ad space in Gmail if users are “trained” to think of this space as interesting. Is that deceiving or not? I’m really undecided on this issue. It certainly deprives some value of Gmail as an RSS reader, but who would seriously consider the gimmicky feature of Web Clips – which will never assure you see every item, and which doesn’t let you access news in any structured way – to be a real RSS reader anyway?

David doesn’t like the “Web Clips ads” at all and says, “I distrust misusing the expectations of a person used to reading their own feeds, by randomly interspersing ads. Ads should stay in their own part of the real estate on a page.”


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