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It's the last thing newspapers need. You can almost hear the gnashing of teeth, the hair-pulling, and the calls in to legal.
Not now! Not Google!
But it's true - Google's longstanding policy of no advertising on the Google News site is becoming less policy than loose guideline. As John Battelle so aptly puts it, "sh*tstorm to follow."
Google is now running contextual ads against Google News search results in the United States. Search for "Barack Obama" right about now and you'll see ads for a Barack Obama watch, and a Barack Obama wall plaque. Search "recession" and you get pretty much what you'd expect -- work-at-homes schemes and continuing education programs.
The Google News blog makes it clear these results only appear when a user searches on Google's news site. They don't show up when you land on the home page or click a news category section, unless you refine the results. A tad defensively, the post says, "We've always said that we'd unveil these changes when we could offer a good experience for our users, publishers and advertisers alike, and we'll continue to look at ways to deliver ads that are relevant for users and good for publishers, too."
Methinks more than one publisher, at least the ones not busy filing for bankruptcy, are probably going to have a problem with Google running ads against their content.
Prediction: Quite a few publishers will pull their feeds, and at least one major news orgaization will at least try to haul Google into court.