When 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:
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?
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