A Dose of SEM

You may remember Elinor Mills who made a name for herself by revealing a bit too much about Google CEO Eric Schmidt. This in turn prompted the search/advertising monopoly to banish her from its journalist-in-good-standing list.

Moments ago, Ms. Mills piled on an infectious story in which a Google Health blogger used all the attention that sicko Michael Moore has generated as a come-on to big pharma and the HMO industry to join the company’s SEM parade, i.e., to buy a few Google AdWords. Google’s health account planner Lauren Turner writes:

“Does negative press make you Sicko?”

Followed shortly by:

“We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message…”

Not unrelated, we couldn’t help see a parallel in another search guru whose quest to monetize his blogger network entered a gray zone that prompted one of his veritable stars to jump ship. Tech Crunch’s Michael Arrington resigned from John Battelle’s Federated Media ad network over Mr. Battelle’s use of his news hole (and writers who fill it) to benefit a sponsor.

In another somewhat related story, let’s keep an eye on Yahoo’s Susan Decker who’s charged with monetizing the 500 million monthly visitors to the wayward portal’s websites. Miguel Heft of The Times writes:

“Yet over the last 18 months, Yahoo has suffered its biggest slump since the collapse of the dot-com bubble. The company has been eclipsed by the phenomenal rise of Google, which handily beat Yahoo in the most lucrative business on the Internet: search and search advertising.”

As advertising dollars cascade onto the net, the lines between church and state, advertising and editorial, will continue to blur. These events simply touch on just how painful that search can be for the right balance.