Friday, June 10, 2005

Study: Search Engines Still Fail to Disclose Ads

So, the Consumer Reports WebWatch doesn't think Search Engines are doing enough to disclose the difference between paid ads and search results.

My question is not whether they are doing enough to disclose, but does it really matter? Does the relevancy of what a computer thinks (i.e. an algorithm) really make a listing more or less credible on the Internet? This isn't editorial in a newspaper, where an editor and reporter have verified the facts and the information is deemed to be accurate - this is a Web page that has been crawled by a computer and the code is being parsed out for relevancy. In my opinion, good advertising is actually more credible in most settings because, guess what, if it's not relevant, you don't buy it.

For more political or ideological things, I see the value in providing disclaimers of where the information came from more, but in my opinion, with the exception of Yahoo's SM's paid inclusion program (which I despise) the search engines are already doing a good job of disclosure. They can't help it if the average joe doesn't know what "sponsored listings" means. In my opinion, that's not a "cryptic" phrase.

Study: Search Engines Still Fail to Disclose Ads


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