USAToday.com Tests Sponsored Links

By: Carl Sullivan

Updated at 4:55 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

Sponsored links are now appearing on some USAToday.com editorial pages, during a test run with Applied Semantics, a software company in Los Angeles.

The paid advertising links, sold by Overture Services of Pasadena, Calif., appear in “advertising” labeled boxes on the right-hand side of selected USAToday.com stories.

The links are very similar to Overture’s paid links that appear in some search engines. But the Applied Semantics links load automatically with news pages and don’t require users to actively search for a topic. The company’s software dynamically generates ad links that are contextually relevant to the content being displayed, said Jason Liebman, executive vice president at Applied Semantics. So, a USAToday.com user reading about healthcare might be automatically served paid links to pharmaceutical companies or drug stores.

The links appear in boxes that are clearly labeled “Advertiser Links.” Some links categories, such as advertiser-sponsored links to gambling or pornography sites, have been excluded from the USAToday.com test.

USAToday.com Publisher Jeff Webber said the site will test the technology for a few more weeks before deciding whether it will permanently add the sponsored links. Because there’s limited ad inventory in the program so far, the links only appear on a few pages of USAToday.com, Webber said. (And that low inventory means it’s currently difficult to find live stories with the paid links; this reporter has seen them most often in the “Money” section.)

More details about the program are available on the Applied Semantics Web site: http://www.appliedsemantics.com/ne/ne_pr_102102.html

Advertiser links have become common on search engines, and are spreading to other parts of the Web. Last week, ESPN.com said it will incorporate sponsored links from Overture in its search results. ESPN.com also said it would add Overture-powered search boxes throughout its site.

Overture also has a deal to provide sponsored links on searches at CNN.com.

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