Goodreads Now Filling Your Update Feed With Spam, Er “Sponsored Posts”

GoodreadsWhen Goodreads restructured their social network late last month I predicted that they would shortly use author pages for marketing purposes, and now it looks like I was about half right.

Over the past week Goodreads has quietly started testing a new kind of native advertising. They've been inserting sponsored book listings into certain pages, including at the top of the recommendations page, and they've also adding those sponsored listings to a user's update feed.

The change was first noticed by a Mobileread member, who took a screenshot to share:

goodreads advert

I haven't seen them myself, but I do know that the new sponsored listings were announced on a Goodreads forum last week, where they immediately proved unpopular.

It's not that users objected to advertising; everyone knows that the site has to be funded somehow, but as the second commenter pointed out, Goodreads already has  a lot of advertising:

*sigh* Because there's just not enough advertising to us already. Banners, and sidebar ad, sponsored ads in the sidebar, bookpage ads, and mandatory sidebar "editorial" content, update feed "editorial" content, and probably more that I've forgotten, and now this. I'm starting to feel like nothing more than a wallet.

Will we have to "hide" this book by book (which, come on, isn't really hiding - it's just a recommendations algorithm data point), or will we be able to opt out of the entire sponsored book "feature"?

According to Emily, the Goodreads Director of Care, there is no options for avoiding the adverts entirely.

I can confirm that the rest of the adverts on Goodreads can be blocked by using a browser plugin like AdBlock Plus, but it's not clear whether the plugin will also get the native advertising clogging up your update feed. Does anyone know if that is effective?

It would also be good to know if Adblock is effective against the ad inserted at the top of the recommendations page. Whether you like them or not, the advert looks terrible:goodreads advert

Yes, those are scroll bars; the ad doesn't fit into the space.

***

So is anyone else as disappointed by today's news as I am?

While I understand that the site has to be funded somehow, I had hoped that GR would find a solution which did not involve spamming us with more adverts. In fact, one silver lining to Amazon acquiring Goodreads in 2013 was that it opened up smarter alternatives to using advertising as a funding source.

I mean, we all know Amazon is using your Goodreads profile for its own uses.  And most of us would be fine with that because it keeps the site running. But now Amazon wants to use profiles to market to users, and spam the users with more adverts.

That concerns me, because it points to serious financial planning issues on the part of Goodreads and Amazon.

Advertising is a finite source of revenue. You can only sell so many ad spaces before you crowd out the non-paid content, and once that happens you start to make the service unattractive.

Google has learned this; look at the ad spam on the search results page. Facebook has learned this; it's why FB now sells sponsored posts.

And now Goodreads is about to come up against the same limit.

image by freezelight

About Nate Hoffelder (11585 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

12 Comments on Goodreads Now Filling Your Update Feed With Spam, Er “Sponsored Posts”

  1. It’s interesting how many users will rate such books not based on content but based on fact it’s ad so get your 1 star + shelved as “AD SPAM , NEVER READ”

  2. I’m completely baffled by this. GR already has an advertising system where authors pay to have a small ad that can be targeted to certain genres or to readers of particular authors. So I don’t understand – is this replacing the old author-paid ad system?

    • It’s something new, and I frankly don’t understand what it is supposed to accomplish. What is the benefit from having people add a book to their shelf?

    • The old author ads were somewhat known for not working on buyers. In fact, from some of the various experiments I’ve tried on GR, including their giveaways, I’d venture to guess they are having a hell of a time getting ads to work. And that generally means that ad money goes elsewhere. Adding more ads is usually a very bad sign. It’s a bit like the ads on FB. They inserted them in the news stream and some you can say “get rid of this ad” but then some came along one day that you couldn’t get rid of. There’s a problem with ad models these days in that people buying the ads want more than “impressions” and “clicks.” If they don’t see a bump in actual sales, they aren’t going to keep taking out ads. I’m on a few forums where ads have been discussed and polled–which ones work and which ones don’t. Ads that offer “visibility” are largely getting panned lately because they are not generating sales. Yet companies continue to sell ads based on “impressions” and clicks. Ad buyers are getting smarter. They may take out one ad here and there, but if they don’t see the numbers to back it up, they don’t come back for a second ad–and they spread the word.

  3. I use Adblock Plus, and I’ve seen one or two of those ads in my update feed, but not for a good while. Reading this article, I was thinking that if I start seeing them on a regular basis, I would cut out my feed, since it’s very rarely useful. Instead, I might give Vikarti Anatra’s subversion. I doubt that it will have any effect, but it would be fun — for a while.

    • Putting ads in a newsfeed that is constantly running/changing is not very worthwhile. It’s the same problem with FB and Twitter. If you aren’t on there 24/7 you don’t see all the “news.” So this encourages a habit of “glancing” at the feed, sorting mentally, replying to a few things (if any) and moving on. GR feed can change by the minute if you follow enough people. And if I don’t want to see what everyone is reading (who really cares?) I just update my own reading notes and move on. I don’t think the usual ad model works all that well on GR (Which would be why I haven’t taken out an ad. That and I haven’t heard any positive results in years).

  4. I’m always disappointed and annoyed by yet more advertising. Heck, I’d happily pay a small annual fee to Goodreads if they would *stop* advertising at me.

  5. I haven’t seen that says “sponsored post” in my feed. I’ve seen recommendations; you know “Because you read X, Goodreads recommends Y”; is that the same thing or something different?

  6. Leafmarks is another book cataloging site (not owned by Amazon).

    example page: https://www.leafmarks.com/lm/#/books/10091

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