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No Soup For You, Adobe Pulls The Plug On Its PDF Ads Program

15 Jan 2009 | | No Comment

Just over a year ago on November 29, 2007, Adobe launched Ads for Adobe PDF. The concept was simple, online commercial publishers would be able to use an opt-in service to enable contextual ads within Adobe Acrobat, beside PDF content. Ads for the service would be powered by Yahoo! and the program would begin in beta mode.

You could call it the Google-model. Place contextual ads next to content and then sit back, relax and watch the money roll in as readers happily click on the topic-relevant ads. Everyone’s a winner.

Except that’s not the way it turned out. Unlike contextual ads for Google, contextual ads for PDF don’t appear to have been a never-ending goldmine, and as a result Adobe have decided to discontinue the beta program effective March 32, 2009, due to a reassessment of priorities in the current economic environment:

Unfortunately, due to a reassessment of priorities in the current economic environment, Adobe is discontinuing the program effective March 31, 2009.

The facility to upload and ad-enable PDFs will be disabled on January 16, 2009

While it would be easy to dismiss the Ads for PDF program as a bad idea from the beginning, some credit is due here for trying. While not many people like seeing ads, they do like reading the content, and if ads are what is required in order to support the production of more interesting content – then so be it.

Evidently, however, PDF wasn’t the right medium for contextual ads, at least not this particular Google-model – which in hindsight makes sense. Contextual ads for Google searches are so successful not only because they are relevant to what the user is searching for, but because they actively help the user find what they are looking for. The same can’t generally be said for contextual ads in PDF, since the user has already found what he/she is looking for and is reading it.

I think it is possible that in the future Adobe may re-introduce Ads for PDF, but in a slightly different form. Imagine this: instead of using a sidebar for ads, the producer of the PDF would be able to designate an ad area in the actual content (like the ads you see in magazines and newspapers) where the ads would be displayed. They could then distribute these PDFs to people (in the form of electronic newspapers, magazines, product procures, etc) and remotely control the ads through Adobe’s online ads manager.

Still pretty close to the Google-model, but perhaps a little more useful for PDF users.

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