How Yahoo's RSS Advertising works

Freshness Warning
This blog post is over 15 years old. It's possible that the information you read below isn't current and the links no longer work.

Here’s a look at how Yahoo’s RSS ads work and a comparison to the ad insertion techniques of some of the other players — Google, Pheedo, and FeedBurner. Feedster wasn’t able to get me a publisher account in time for this article.

Disclaimer, I was a founder of Pheedo and although I no longer work there, I still own stock.

If you’ve got a Yahoo Publisher Network beta account, then you’ve got access to Yahoo’s RSS ad server under your “Ad Setup” tab. The setup is nearly identical to Google’s implementation of RSS advertising, so I’ll make some comparisons as I describe Yahoo’s service. Yahoo asks you to select your publishing platform, giving you a choice of Wordpress or Movable Type and then generates some HTML that you insert into your feed items. Like Google, the HTML code is a link and an image, both with query strings containing embedded MT or WP tags. The query strings assign a unique ID to image and link and tells Yahoo your item permalink URL so it can be used contextual matching. The only real difference between Yahoo and Google is what they use for a unique ID; Google uses the entry date and time and Yahoo uses the numeric entry ID.

Both Google and Yahoo (as well as Pheedo and FeedBurner) serve text ads typeset as an image. The user has an image file delivered to their reader, but that image contains only text and looks to the end user like a simple text ad. The reason for delivering text ads as images is to be able to rotate ads. Without using an image, once a bit of text is inserted into a feed, there’s no way to change it without changing the feed’s source.

With Yahoo, the entire ad unit links to the advertiser site, but Google uses image maps to link a portion of the ad to the advertiser and a portion to Google. With either company, if you can’t handle cookies, clicks on ads fail. This is because Yahoo and Google change the ad each time you load it and track which ad you saw through a cookie. Don’t have cookies? Then they don’t know which ad you just saw and redirect your click to a non-advertiser page (Yahoo sends you to their Publisher Network signup page). This is a bigger problem than you might expect. Many desktop readers send clicks to an external browser. What this means is that when the ad server delivers the “you saw this ad” cookie to the feed reader, that cookie isn’t available to the external browser. When I see an ad in NetNewsWire and click it, Firefox opens up. Firefox doesn’t know about the cookies NNW has seen, so I get the error page instead of the advertiser page.

Pheedo has solved the problem with readers that don’t accept cookies by having a default ad that rotates very infrequently. Users not accepting cookies see this default ad and clicks without cookies go to that advertiser. But they’re still susceptible to the external browser problem. In a way they have a larger problem, since the ad server thinks that cookies are accepted and serves an ad, but then can’t find the cookie on the click and charges the click to the default advertiser.

Google, Pheedo, and Feedburner all serve text-based ads exclusively, but I’ve seen a couple of graphic ads on Yahoo — mainly as the default ad that gets shown if you aren’t accepting cookies.

Although Google and Yahoo only offer ad code for a limited number of blogging platforms, anyone can easily look at the sample ad code and deduce a recipe for plugging it into alternate content management systems. All you need to do is stuff a unique ID and the URL of your entry into the proper places in their code.

Both Yahoo and Google insert an ad inside every RSS item you publish. Adding their RSS ad code to your feed will mean that every item will contain advertising and that some items you’ve previously published will re-appear in your reader’s feed readers.

Pheedo and Feedburner each require that they host your feed in order to insert advertising. They monitor your feed for changes and then republish your feed content with advertising added. Each also offers feed analytics alongside their advertising services, providing information about feed reach, item popularity, and your feed readership in addition to the standard advertising reports. Each of their ad servers inserts ads in a similar manner to that of Google and Yahoo, only in an automated way. This means that if they chose to, they would be able to offer their publishers the same sort of copy and paste ad insertion as Google and Yahoo. Doing so would hamper their ability to provide you with feed analytics services, however.

harry
November 17, 2005 7:57 AM

adding some ads like google adsense on the webpage is ok, but insert those things in an Rss feed is abusolutly annoying.this is especially true when you booked heaps of RSS feeds

This discussion has been closed.

Recently Written

The Trap of The Sales-Led Product (Dec 10)
It’s not a winning way to build a product company.
The Hidden Cost of Custom Customer Features (Dec 7)
One-off features will cost you more than you think and make your customers unhappy.
Domain expertise in Product Management (Nov 16)
When you're hiring software product managers, hire for product management skills. Looking for domain experts will reduce the pool of people you can hire and might just be worse for your product.
Strategy Means Saying No (Oct 27)
An oft-overlooked aspect of strategy is to define what you are not doing. There are lots of adjacent problems you can attack. Strategy means defining which ones you will ignore.
Understanding vision, strategy, and execution (Oct 24)
Vision is what you're trying to do. Strategy is broad strokes on how you'll get there. Execution is the tasks you complete to complete the strategy.
How to advance your Product Market Fit KPI (Oct 21)
Finding the gaps in your product that will unlock the next round of growth.
Developer Relations as Developer Success (Oct 19)
Outreach, marketing, and developer evangelism are a part of Developer Relations. But the companies that are most successful with developers spend most of their time on something else.
Developer Experience Principle 6: Easy to Maintain (Oct 17)
Keeping your product Easy to Maintain will improve the lives of your team and your customers. It will help keep your docs up to date. Your SDKs and APIs will be released in sync. Your tooling and overall experience will shine.

Older...

What I'm Reading

Contact

Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497

Resume

Public Key

© 1999-2021 Adam Kalsey.