Somewhere between the frenetic antics of Cookie Monster and the violent baton swings of a late-night conductor's symphonic concerto, PBS is changing.
Sure, you may not notice it by simply tuning in to PBS on your television set. It's something that you will only catch at PBS.org. Earlier this year, the Public Broadcasting Service began broadcasting Google
Thanks to Google's breadth of advertisers and its contextual prowess, PBS is getting sponsors that are pretty spot-on. For example, going to the PBS search page, I found an assortment of ads for things like kid haircut kits, science class planning, and a quiz to determine if you're a slacker mom.
Today's show is brought to you by the letter Google
If advertising on PBS seems odd, it's because the company prides itself on being a non-profit group consisting of 348 public television stations. They don't air "advertisements," if we go by the conventional definition.
However, good luck avoiding the advertisements that come in other forms like "generous grants" from corporate sponsors. Then we have the pledge drives where shows are interrupted so we can all learn how to get a Clifford duffel bag with a modest $100 contribution.
Fundraising? Grants? Pledge drives? Tapping into the Google gold mine to help subsidize website costs shouldn't feel any different, but it has become a sore spot for PBS. According to the Broadcasting & Cable blog, PBS is now emphasizing disclaimers beneath the Google ads to distance itself from Google's role in providing the ads, as well as from the content of the sponsors themselves.
That's funny. When I see a McDonald's
I know. In an ideal world, PBS would be quietly bankrolled by charitable foundations. But the world doesn't quite play that way. Even a generous gesture like Oracle's
Google works for PBS.org because Google works. Period. As bad as things have gotten for Time Warner's
If anything, I'm surprised that more non-charitable organizations haven't jumped on the Google AdSense bandwagon. Yes, the groups can't endorse every single sponsor, but Google's program does allow the luxury of filtering out certain advertisers. Google also has editorial standards that it goes by in accepting spots in the first place. Besides, do charities question every buck that is donated? The incentive to follow a paper trail and return any blood money seems limp and half-hearted at best.
Faith in hope and charity
I predict that in five years you are going to see a lot more Google ad blocks online. Yes, I'm also opening up that invitation to rival products like Yahoo!
Oh, I'm sure that there are probably dozens of forward-thinking religious institutions out there that have preachers blogging away every week alongside perfectly targeted text ads. Google and Yahoo!, and eventually Microsoft, make it so easy that it's almost as if someone is leaving money on the table if they don't pursue that as a strategy.
Churches and regional charities also provide a localized focus, and that's even sweeter gravy for local merchants and service providers that will pay well for quality leads.
So don't be ashamed, PBS. You're doing the right thing. Maybe it will mean shorter pledge drives in the future. At the very least, it may mean fewer Clifford duffel bags to unload.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz would still like to know how the Teletubbies got on the air, but he's cool with Barney and Sesame Street. He also does a pretty mean Count impersonation. Rick does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.