Ads and comments blend at the Globe

Letting its ads creep into its content, the Boston Globe is trying to build a revenue stream from the comments its readers submit about online stories.

As far back as I can remember, the Globe has had ads in the sections where readers post their comments in response to articles. But a few months ago, the New England paper of record introduced ads from “Ads by Google” actually embedded in between the comments. These are keyword-targeted ads provided through the Google AdWords program. The ads are sometimes — but certainly not always — related to what’s being discussed in the articles.

Yesterday, for example, an article entitled, “Celtics head back to LA in driver’s seat,” had an ad posted among the comments for hotel rooms near the Staples Center, where the Celtics and Lakers are about to do basketball battle.

Far less exciting, an article about littering, “As law languishes, trash falls where it may,” had an ad posted for the same-day delivery of dumpsters interspersed in the comments section.

And for the article “Pay or stay in the dark,” which is about the town of Concord taking down its street lights to save money, there was an ad for landscape lighting in between the comments.

One ad in particular left me scratching my head. An ad accompanying an article a few weeks ago — “Surplus is focus of campaign battle” — included an ad with a link to Oprah Winfrey’s website in the comments section.

The comments sections of the Boston Herald, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times all carry “Ads by Google,” but the ads themselves are not interspersed among the comments; they are set off way to the side or at the bottom.

“We began putting some ads in between the comments a few months ago in an attempt to monetize the comments without being overly intrusive,” says Bennie DiNardo, deputy managing editor for multimedia at the Globe. “User-generated material — comments, photos, videos — has done great things for web sites, made them much more interactive, given people a voice to participate in the conversation in ways that weren’t possible before. But all organizations are struggling with ways to make money from these features.”

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