Forgive me if I’m feeling a little schadenfreude right now.
My current blog location has been criticized in the past for a variety of things, including, most recently, Pepsigate. One of the things that we’ve been criticized for is our on-again off-again use of Google Adsense, where the content of the page dictates which ads pop up. For skeptical blogs, this sometimes has some rather embarrassing consequences. For instance, when I write about vaccines, sometimes the ad server would serve up ads for chelation therapy or anti-vaccine quack nostrums. Ditto when I wrote about homeopathy, which sometimes results in the appearance of ads for homeopathic remedies. Over the years, I’ve fluctuated between extreme annoyance at this, not wanting to promote such quackery, and more of a bemused attitude, where I realize that my regular audience is about as hostile to such quackery as an audience can be and that, even if any of them actually bothered to click on any of the ads, it would be more out of curiosity and a desire to ridicule than to buy anything. That leaves the “sponsors” paying for clicks that bring them no business, and I wasn’t about to lose much sleep over it. On the other hand, such ads popping up on a skeptical blog really do look bad; so when rogue content-driven ads are pointed out to me, I do complain to our benevolent overlords at Seed about them, and they do block them. Eventually. Even so, these ads all too often persist longer than I would like them to.
Given the annoyance that Google Adsense and various other copycat systems that try to use algorithms to target ads to the content of a blog post have caused me over the nearly five years I’ve been here at ScienceBlogs, I was amused to no end to find out that Ã¼ber-quack Mike Adams has the same problem:
Many readers have written us to ask why they sometimes see a Google ad appearing on our site for something we oppose such as a pharmaceutical or junk food product. On the left of each article, we publish a 300 x 250 Google Adsense ad. Google uses a keyword detection algorithm to determine which ads appear to be the most relevant to the article page, but this algorithm isn’t able to take into account whether we are writing in favor of something or against it.
As a result, when we write about antidepressant drugs, for example, ads may appear that are promoting antidepressant drugs. This is frustrating to us as well as our readers, because we do not wish to promote products or services that are not aligned with our core beliefs.
Can you say “schadenfreude“? Sure, I knew you could. To say that Adams’ predicament is amusing is an understatement. It couldn’t be happening to a nicer guy. Of course, this guy hates pharmaceutical ads, but has an ad on his site that promise to cure “almost any cancer” at home for a mere $5.15 a day. Other ads shill for nonsense like colloidal silver, “thyroid helper,” fertility boosters, light water filters, and a wide variety of other nonsense. Personally, I’d take the pharma ads.
In any case, I suppose I could suggest to Mr. Adams that, if he wants to remain perfectly pure, he could forego all advertising. He won’t, of course, because he’s in it for the money just as much as any pharmaceutical company. The difference is, he can’t afford to admit it because his income depends on his being seen as somehow “purer” than pharmaceutical companies, and there are regulations that limit the claims that pharmaceutical companies can make for their products that are actually enforced.