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Google Video Units – Genius or Desperation?

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As described at Google’s AdSense blog and in this New York Times story, Google is rolling out ad-supported video to all members of the search engine’s AdSense program — something the company launched as a limited beta trial back in May. Whether this is a breakthrough use of YouTube as an advertising platform, or a lame scramble by Google to justify the billions it spent for the video-sharing site, depends on who you believe.

TV advertisingGoogle, not surprisingly, thinks it’s a pretty good thing. So does Jim Kukral, a Web marketing guy, who says that the move is a huge opportunity for publishers, who can have their video content distributed across millions of blogs, and get paid for doing so. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is also excited about the idea, which isn’t surprising considering his WatchMojo site produces the kind of targeted video that would fit fairly easily into such a program (Ash has an updated post with a more in-depth look at the concept here).

Om Malik, however — who I consider to be a pretty smart guy, and no slouch when it comes analyzing online business models — is skeptical about whether this makes sense or not (Rafat Ali at PaidContent sounds similarly underwhelmed). As Om points out, a potential Achilles heel for the program is the relevance of the content. Google’s existing text ads often contain laughably irrelevant links, but those are relatively easy to ignore. How much more irritating will it be to find irrelevant video clips popping up? And will anyone click on them?

A commenter named Mike B at Read/Write Web — where Marshall Kirkpatrick seems fairly positive on the idea — makes a similar point (Mike B also shows up on the TechCrunch post):

“I don’t get what’s so great about this. How many readers want to watch randomly selected youtube videos on some 3rd party website?

If the videos were selected by the website owner and attached to specific articles like current youtube embeds, that might make sense, but I don’t see much traction in this idea.”

Jeremy Allaire of Brightcove, which has a similar ad-supported video distribution service, says in the New York Times story that his company has found the relevance of ads and videos is a concern for larger websites. Whether Google can overcome that problem remains to be seen. Search Engine Land has some more details on the Google launch, including a screenshot of the video player with an ad banner on top, and MG Siegler at ParisLemon says Google’s effort is a thousand times better than Microsoft’s. Greg Sterling at Screenwerk has some thoughts about the new feature as well.

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