Microsoft to pay search users? Google too? Crazy.

by Sid Steward

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Gates has floated the idea of sharing ad revenue with search users, and Google has concurred. Sounds like an effective way to redistribute wealth without selling a darned thing. I wonder what advertisers would think?

This comes to us from the 12/12 Wall Street Journal:

"We'll actually go to users and say instead of us keeping all that ad revenue, we'll actually share some of it back with the user," said Mr. Gates, according to a transcript supplied by Microsoft. "The user essentially will get paid, either money or free content or software things that they wouldn't get if they didn't use that search engine."

Google replied:

"We're always looking for ways to make our users' search experience more satisfying, including paying users for searching with us," Google said in a statement.

Here I was already worried about the misalignment of interests between advertisers and Google, et. al. These new suggestions would turn that misalignment to almost 180 degrees.

As they mature, I believe that online ad services must work to improve their credibility with advertisers, not erode it. If I were an advertiser, I would want:

  • to see a strong, active policy against click fraud,

  • some transparency into the click cost mechanism, and

  • click audit features.

That is, some assurance I'm getting high quality clicks. Maybe even a transparent 'click quality index' that quantifies these factors (and adjusts click cost to suit). Paying users to read/click ads would draw the lowest quality ad clicks.

Skeptical advertisers might appreciate my own quid pro quo social ad service: LinkLike.

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