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Free Wall Street Journal. Mostly.

If rumors are to be believed, the Wall Street Journal has been considering abandoning the subscription model for months. But alas, it’s not to be. Rupert Murdoch announced today that the Wall Street Journal, while expanding its free offerings, would not leave the subscription model. In fact, he stated that:

We are going to greatly expand and improve the free part of the Wall Street Journal online, but there will still be a strong offering (for subscribers) … The really special things will still be a subscription service, and, sorry to tell you, probably more expensive.

The site will continue to operate on a hybrid of advertising and subscription dollars. This decision could be due, at least in part, to reasons cited by estimates earlier this month that the Journal would need twelve times the traffic to break even on impression-based banner advertising if they abandoned the subscription based model altogether.

Online Video Ads Unwelcome

Shocker—people don’t want to see ads. As marketers, we hear people complain all the time about advertising. It comes as no surprise that BurstMedia’s recent survey found that people don’t like ads—but it’s probably something we should think about.

First, the good news: The survey of 2600 online adults focused specifically on online video and advertising in online video. As we all know, the medium is pretty darn popular—72.1% of respondents viewed video online at least monthly.

As we all know, the primary audience for online video is young, adult males: 33.7% of males aged 18 to 24 viewed online video at least once a day (compared to 17.8% of females in the same age range and 25.4% of males over 25). Even seniors are getting into online video, with 58.6% of respondents aged 65 and over watching.

Google Rethinking AdSense Referral Changes

Two weeks ago, Google announced some changes to their AdSense Referral Program. In addition to reverting to a simpler payment structure, they were also going to be discontinuing the program outside of the Americas and Japan. This meant that not only would referrals from other countries not be credited toward their referring AdSense publishers, but publishers located outside these areas would be forced out of the referral program altogether.

As you can imagine, this was upsetting for many publishers. Possibly among the most vocal was Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net. As an Australian publisher (and A-list blogger), Darren stood to lose a major source of revenue. He announced the changes and his critiques of the new rules on ProBlogger, followed by an open letter protesting the changes. He certainly wasn’t alone in protesting the changes.

The Google Challenge: Educating the Next Generation of Search Marketers

Now, you won’t hear me trumpet Google’s praises all that often, but I will say that I’m really thrilled to see Google lead the way to help students learn more about search marketing. Google has partnered with professors across the world to introduce college students to search engine marketing with the Google Online Marketing Challenge. It’s a win-win for Google — it potentially exposes new companies to Google AdWords and it exposes the next generation of marketers to Google AdWords.

1-800 Contacts Sues Over Keywords Again

1-800-Contacts is suing again. They filed suit against LensWorld.com this past Tuesday, Jan. 8th. Competitor LensWorld.com bid on the keyword “1800Contacts” so when someone types it into the search engine, a LensWorld ad would show. Nothing new here (this is a routine practice in many industries, with both sides participating).

1-800 Contacts lost a case against another rival WhenU.com on the same issue. This set a precedent and following rulings were that keyword advertising isn’t considered a trademark violation. 1-800-Contacts is based in Utah and that’s where the irony starts. 1-800-Contacts was part of the opposition this past April to a controversial law to ban bidding on competitor’s keywords. Even though they were guilty of the same. The law was dropped the day it was to go into affect after Utah lawmakers had some discussions with search engines. In the meantime it was an embarrassment, as is this new development.

Analysts: 2008 New Media Trends

I’ve written about the trend of ad dollars going from traditional to New Media. Analysts at The Kelsey Group have a list of predictions for the new year. Since the Kelsey Group services the Yellow Pages, one of their predictions is about the Yellow Pages print version. Rather than putting money there, they predict that they’ll print and distribute less books. They’ll shift to the Internet, sometimes exclusively, to reduce costs.

“We believe the next downturn will favor media choices that are more flexible and provide a lower cost per lead than print directories, which would signal a profound shift.”
- Charles Laughlin, senior vice president and program director, The Kelsey Report® and managing editor, The Kelsey Group.

Google’s Conversion Optimizer Updated

Google’s nifty little tool, the Conversion Optimizer, has been updated. Originally launched in September, the tool is designed to optimize Google PPC ads for conversion.

The Conversion Optimizer uses user data from your website to observe when most of your conversions occur from PPC ads. The Optimizer lets you specific a maximum cost per acquisition (CPA) for an adgroup, then automatically adjusts your bidding to keep your CPC down and your conversions up. It’s designed to minimize the cost per acquisition and maximize the number of conversions.

Currently, it sounds like the primary method for doing this is automatic dayparting. According to the official announcement, the Conversion Optimizer accomplishes all this by “showing ads when conversions are most likely to occur.”

The Inside AdWords blog cites one case study of this in action from Moritz Daan, CEO of Webgamic’s CEO: