Monday, August 4, 2008


If it's good enough for Katie's Dad and Ron Guhname, it's good enough for me: advertising on my blog, that is. You may notice a Google ad banner on the left-hand side, a Google search box, and an search box. Now, this blog isn't exactly one of the most visited on the web, and so I don't expect to quit medical school and sit around living high on the hog while the advertising revenues roll in. However, since I am currently a starving student, I thought that I might as well experiment with ads to see if they might bring in some spare change. I hope none of my readers mind--I don't intend to make this blog one of those cluttered, dizzying to look at sites that are so common today.

I was actually somewhat surprised to be accepted to the Google and Amazon programs. Here's an excerpt from the affiliate program operating agreement:

We may reject your application if we determine (in our sole discretion) that your site is unsuitable for the Program. Unsuitable sites include, but are not limited to, those that:
  • promote sexually explicit materials
  • promote violence
  • promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age [bolding mine]
  • promote illegal activities

I strongly suspected that if Amazon's people carefully read this blog, they would decided that it does in fact promote discrimination on several of those bases, and turn me down. Apparently, they either didn't dig deep enough, or they decided that Wise Man's Heart wasn't really that bad. A form of unprincipled exception, perhaps? "We can't go turning down every site that disagrees with us... that would be taking things too far!"

What's truly remarkable about the above policy, however, is the sweeping language. A site is unsuitable if it promotes discrimination based on nationality? So if a blogger promotes an immigration policy that favors persons from some nations over others, his site is unsuitable? Or how about sexual orientation? Logically speaking, if someone supports current marriage law in the United States, which does not provide for same-sex marriage, his site violates Amazon's policy.

Similarly, Google AdSense program policies read as follows:

Sites displaying Google ads may not include:

  • Violent content, racial intolerance, or advocacy against any individual, group, or organization

I stop there because that is the very first rule. The most important thing to Google is that the sites on which its ads appear exhibit no discrimination whatsoever. And their language is even more sweeping than Amazon's: under Google's rules, you may not "advocate" against any "individual, group, or organization," meaning you cannot say anything negative at all. Obviously, this rule is not strictly enforced. Daily Kos has Google ads, and that site certainly advocates against George W. Bush, who is an individual, and the Republican party, which is an organization.

One might be tempted to say that these companies are unprincipled because they don't carry their rules to their logical conclusion. Viewed from another angle, however, they are quite principled, because at least in their official rules they place the principle of non-discrimination above that of turning a profit--even turning a profit from, and thus "sticking it to," people they disagree with.


Rick Darby said...

I notice most of the ads are for interracial dating sites. Maybe somebody at Google has a sense of humor.

Hermes said...

I think it takes a while for Google's software to get a sense of what a site is about. Interracial dating seems to be the first thing that comes to its mind when it sees the words "black" and "white" featured prominently.

Interestingly, I have read some bloggers who say Google AdSense doesn't work well for politically-oriented blogs, because though it will display politically-related ads, it can't tell which side of the fence a blogger and his readers are on. For example, my recent post on Michael Novak triggered ads about both immigration lawyers and stopping illegal immigration.

stephenhopewell said...

Your readers are unlikely to respond to the interracial dating ads, so it's subversive for you to get money for them. Good job.

Hermes said...

Unfortunately, I don't get money unless people click on the ads, which people who aren't interested in interracial dating are unlike to do. I think publishers can block certain kinds of ads, but I haven't looked into how to do so yet.