Elinor Mills is asking whether Google’s Tim Armstrong involvement with Associated Content is a conflict of interest. Associated Content creates content optimized for Google – so it can earn revenue from AdSense ads – and that raises questions about Armstrong sitting on the company’s board of directors.
Does it exist to game Google search results and generate revenue through Google’s AdWords advertising service by displaying contextual ads next to the copy? Or is it a new kind of media site, chock full of original articles written mostly by average folk about everything from presidential pardons and karaoke to smoker’s guilt and ventriloquism?
Add to the mix at Associated Content two prominent board members?Tim Armstrong, head of advertising for Google in North America, and venture capitalist Eric Hippeau, a managing partner at SoftBank Capital, who also happens to serve on Yahoo’s board of directors?and you have a little company that’s drawing outsized and quite possibly unwanted attention.
Elinor was kind enough to ask me for my thoughts. I basically shared with her that regardless of what barriers may exist to prevent a conflict of interest, it’s the perception that’s the issue. Google operates from a “don’t be evil” platform and it’s hurting that perception by allowing its executives to be involved in a “gray” area.
“The key issue here is you’ve got someone directly involved in Google’s revenue generation also involved in a company that is taking advantage of ways to generate revenue from Google,” said Andy Beal, founder of Internet marketing consultancy and blog Marketing Pilgrim. “That’s the conflict.”
You can read the extended article here.
What do you think?