In a contextual sea change, Google has announced a beta program that allows publishers to embed AdSense contextual ads in RSS and Atom syndication feeds.
“This is gonna be huge… like HUGE HUGE HUGE!!!” gloats Jason Calacanis, the President of Weblogs, Inc., which - as you might expect - publishes a bunch of syndication feeds. As a publisher of syndication feeds in a small way, I suppose I ought also to be glad. But actually, I think monetizing RSS and Atom feeds in this way in part defeats the purpose of having a feed. Feeds are simply an information stream that point to further information. If they get cluttered, they cease to be useful, and subscribers will cancel. In some sense, the RSS or Atom feed is an advertisement for the full content in and of itself.
Here’s the way Weblog’s unofficial Apple feed, which Calacanis is using to test the syndication AdSense program, looks (with ads) in Syndication Viewer. Each Google AdSense ad is simply an HTML table embedded in feed items like this [identifying numbers and actual link omitted]:
The good news: it ought to be trivial to parse these ads out of incoming feeds, simply by eliminating table tags and their contents from item entries if in no other way. I will certainly do so in Syndication Viewer.