I was reading some blogs recently and have come across two reports titled "The Death of AdSense" and "Life After AdSense".
A number of different blogs, some that I follow regularly, have discussed the report as a legitimate, thought-provoking analysis of the change in market conditions that have resulted in Google AdSense becoming an ineffective revenue-generation mechanism for an average Internet site. The following is a list of blogs where I have found various discussions of this report:
- Many other blog mentions from Technorati
Having contemplated various aspects of AdSense for much of the past several years, I yearned for an intellectual stimulation of a controversially-named report. I then went ahead and downloaded it. I came to a realization of the true nature of this report this morning when I opened my inbox. This realization and how it applies to affiliate marketing is behind my current post.
My first warning of something strange happened while I read the report. It was very poorly worded and the two major points it made were repeated over and over for the entire duration of 50+ pages it contained. In my estimate, the points the report made could be discussed, even in detail, in as few as perhaps 5 pages. There was another fundamental problem with the report. It made very broad assertions without any back-up of those assertions. None of the examples it provided were believable and seemed to be targeted to the uneducated, ill-informed audience. Lastly, the report writer had his own affiliate program, claiming to pay $0.50 to anyone who distributes his free report. So, what was his business model?
To spare you the trouble of downloading the report, I will quickly state the two major points it made:
- AdSense is "dead" because it significantly lowered payouts when Google separated the advertiser platform from a single advertising marketplace where advertisers bid on combined, AdWords (Google Search) and AdSense (publisher network) into two marketplaces where advertisers bid separately on AdWords and AdSense. The writer claims that this caused the advertisers to bid significantly less on AdSense inventory, resulting in smaller payouts to individual web sites that display AdSense ads. This assertion is well-documented and has clear business reasons for Google and advertisers who vocally complained about the combined AdWords/AdSense advertising marketplace.
- Publishers should instead engage in "Click Flipping", a technique by which they themselves bid on AdSense or AdWords keywords at pennies per click, lead the user to their own site where they "convince" him or her to provide an email address which the publisher should later sell to anyone wishing to pay per free lead at significantly higher price.
The fact that a number of bloggers have covered this report in a positive manner has shown me that if one ignores the poor writing, Death to AdSense and Life After Adsense are believable reports to an average reader. I also have no doubt that as a result of this blog coverage, quite a number of unsuspecting people have downloaded the free reports.
Let's take a look at the concept of "Click Flipping". While the Internet was full of people who paid significant amounts for "free leads" in the late 1990's, the big Internet bust of 2000 quickly eliminated anyone paying so much in large quantities to grab a "free lead". It is simply not possible to have a single customer pay more for an opt-in email address than an average publisher site can spend in obtaining this lead. What is lucrative is having an opportunity for you to obtain the lead and then sell the lead to a large number of customers, none of who really care how you got the email address in the first place, as long as it is a valid address. This group is conventionally described as unsolicited mailers or spammers.
What the report effectively teaches you is that obtaining someone's email address and selling it to a large group of spammers is a valid business model which will cause the "Death of AdSense". Whether this is the business you ultimately want to be in depends on your ethics. It also depends on whether you would like to live on the edge of the law that has significant criminal penalties for generating and abetting un-requested emails. I am sure that very few of my readers, readers of the Death of AdSense report, and bloggers discussing this report are interested in this business model. And this brings me to the last two points of this post.
1. It seems that the big motivation for why these bloggers have implicitly and explicitly encouraged distribution of these reports is because of the hefty affiliate payout ($0.50 per download) that the writers of these reports have offered. Have we as a community become so complacent that we are willing to endanger our credibility by promoting a senseless piece of material in the hope of an affiliate payout? I certainly hope that this case allows us all to revisit the business we are in and the service we are offering to our readers.
2. Lastly, back to the business model of The Death of AdSense and Life After AdSense. It seems that all of us who have downloaded the reports have become victims of the very same business model that the report is encouraging. Any business model that allows payouts of $0.50 for each distribution of the report has to make that back somewhere. And where better can it make the money back if not to sell every email address generated from its promotion to a large number of unsolicited marketers, one at a time, perhaps for pennies per name, until the total pay-back is far larger than the $0.50 it cost to generate the address in the first place? The following is the unsolicited email message I received this morning at the address I only provided at the time I downloaded the reports. I now fully expect a large number of such emails without any ability for me to ever put any stop to them in the future.
Would love your thoughts,