Advertising on web pages takes a number of different forms. It may appear on a page that is solely devoted to advertisements, or it may be integrated into a page that also contains information text, articles, images, or other material that is not selling anything. In-text advertising is advertising that appears within the text of material that is otherwise not devoted to advertising. It is controversial because it muddies the boundary between Internet content and Internet advertising for the site visitor.
There are certain standard types of advertising that appear on content-oriented web pages and are separate from the content. These include banner ads, wallpaper ads, sidebar ads, pop-up and pop-under ads, interstitial ads, and video ads. The first three types appear on the same page with content, but in separate, adjacent areas that are clearly delineated. Pop-up and pop-under ads appear in separate windows, while interstitial ads and video ads generally are arranged so that the user has to wait through them before arriving at the content. In-text advertising differs from all of these.
In-text advertising is set up with links inside the sites content text. Whereas links in content text have traditionally linked to other content, such as articles on the specific thing mentioned or definitions of words, in-text advertising functions differently. It links users to advertising, rather than content, and if the user clicks on the ad, the website owner may earn a pay-per-click payment. The top sellers of in-text advertising Info Links®, Vibrant Media®, Kontera®, Built In Text®, Sin Text®, Be Context®, Triggit®, and Miva®.
In-text advertising is signaled by a double-underline rather than the single underline for a standard content link. When the user mouses over the link, the pop-up advertisement appears. It may or may not launch a video immediately. The need for a mouse-over is said by companies that specialize in in-text advertising, such as Vibrant®, to give the user control. In practice, however, the pop-ups can be activated inadvertently as the mouse is moved across the page resulting in an interruption of content viewing that could potentially be annoying to the reader, since pop-ups do not necessarily disappear when the mouse is moved and may need to be individually dismissed.
Some web usability experts feel that in-text advertising is damaging in a broader way in that the bad experiences it causes will make users less likely to use legitimate and helpful web navigation. In addition, journalists working for newspapers with have an online edition have expressed concerns that if the words of a story are sold, then the line between editorial content and advertising content becomes blurred. Although some reports say the objections to the ads have diminished, there are still web experts who do not believe they belong on professional websites.