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Does Yahoo Violate it’s Own Content Guidelines?

Posted By Darren Rowse 11th of October 2005 Yahoo Publishing Network 0 Comments

Angela from the Work at Home Blog has an interesting experience to share with regards to applying to become a part of the Yahoo Publishers Network.

Angela has a number of sites – one of which is called Herpes Help – a site designed to educate and raise awareness around the topic of sexually transmitted diseases. This topic is one that Adsense serves ads to but which on applying to YPN she was told that her topic violated YPN’s content guidelines.

Angela followed up her rejection notice and asked for more information and was told that her site was unsuitable due to its ‘sensitive material’.

I’m a little perplexed by Angela’s experience.

As I look over the topics not allowed in YPN’s guidelines I can’t really see what is wrong with her topic. One might argue that the topic is ‘Adult in Nature’ – but as someone who has worked as a youth worker for 10 years I can assure you that STD’s are not just for adults. The only other category that perhaps she ‘violates’ is the one that prohibits ‘Content related to human suffering or death’.

I guess STD’s fall into that category – but I would have thought that due to the educational nature of Angela’s site that this wouldn’t be a problem.

I decided to do a little digging into the Yahoo mega web of sites to see what I could find and was very interested to find that they too have an educational site on – yes you guessed it – Herpes. It is part of their ‘Yahoo Health’ section.

Picture 1-1Interestingly enough if you scroll down the page a little you’ll find a collection of links that looks remarkably like ads to me – all on the topic of Herpes.

It seems to me that they do accept advertisements on the topic and that they are more than willing to run them on their own sites. I wonder what advertisers would think if they saw YPN rejecting site’s where their message could be shown in a very relevant context?

So the question that I’d like to see the Yahoo Publisher Network answer for us is ‘are they in violation of their own content guidelines?’ Or have they made a mistake with Angela’s application or at least the way in which they processed it and responded to her? The only explanation I can see to this that might be true is that YPN might argue that these advertisers come from a different pool/system to the YPN ones.

There could be merit in this argument – but to me it doesn’t look too good that YPN are in the business of rejecting sites that seem to honestly be trying to be a service to the wider community on an important issue.

What do you think?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Angela and I work very close together on this topic (I run STD’s for Dummies). We’ve both been denied access to various affiliate and marketing programs because of the topic of STD’s. I’ve often felt that it’s because they are the more “common” one’s and not the “trendy” one that we were being rejected.

    It’s truly sad that places such as Yahoo and various other programs find a virus that affects such a LARGE portion of their readership to be offensive.

    What’s even more unsettling is the fact that Yahoo will take the money from those who wish to spend it on advertising, yet won’t allow the sites where the content would fit the ad nicely. Sounds awefully two sided to me.

    All the more reason I will stick with Google and not look elsewhere!

  2. Typical big business blunder I think. I’d say they simply followed their guidelines too strictly, so it’s more than likely a processing error.

    But seeing you caught them out doing the same on their site, I guess they better fix this – or else they’ll get the perception of one rule for themselves and another for the rest of us. Not good if they want to compete with Google.

  3. Both Yahoo and Google feature adult content on their sites and not simply “educational” in nature. If you do an adult oriented search on either site, you’ll also see that they both have plenty of “sponsored links” for those keywords, so that particular aspect of their TOS has always been a bit puzzling. Guess it’s a combination of “do as I say, not as I do” with the New Golden Rule “he who has the Gold, makes the rule.”

  4. I think it’s a totally fair decision for Yahoo to make.

    It’s so easy for people to bash “big business” for issues like this without giving thought and credit for for why this might be the case.

    Yahoo obviously made a business decision that they are willing to deal with these sponsors directly but do not want to include them within their channel. They would have gone through a process to reach the descision, most probably that adult/sexual related content has a side of the internet industry that has a history of shady business tactics (which Yahoo would have the knowledge and experince of such bad practice to make that judgement) therefore all third party sites of a sexual/adult nature are lumped into that boat and will not carry YPM ads. It’s obviously a side of the business that presents a risk that Yahoo are not willing divert resources towards to manage.

    I see it no differently than in the offline world Nike distributing a type of shoe exclusively through it’s own stores while not allowing other retailers in it’s channel to distribute that line of shoe. Selected distribution, channel marketing 101, lesson 1 finished. It’s the type of judgment that Yahoo have the luxury and responsibility to make for their own sake and the sake of their advertisers.

    So called “big business” like Yahoo have many advantages (eg. large advertiser base) but they have disadvantages (eg. inflexible content guidelines). Yes it is unfortunate but know the situation, move on and find another solution.

    Instead of bitching and moaning about it, I suggest seeing this as an business opportunity. Start you own mini ad network that specifically offers advertising on smaller sites within the sexual health genre. If Yahoo don’t have the resources or flexibility to provide a revenue stream to small sites offering advertising space then see this your chance to own the category before they wake up that there is money to be earned or someone else does.

  5. There are four of us that run a very successful online herpes and hpv support group on yahoo groups called Picking Up the Pieces. As you scroll down to the bottom of the home page you find Yahoo Sponsor Results. It seems to me that the content isn’t so “sensitive” after all.

  6. Anthony, I take it you’ve never ventured into Yahoo Groups?

  7. Them with the gold makes the rules.

  8. […] 10th, 2005 and is filed under News Brief. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently notallowed. […]

  9. While I think it totally sucks what YPN did, you have to realize that Yahoo is a mega corporation with numerous departments. If YPN rejected you and you find Yahoo endorsing STD advertisers and pages in its own directory, perhaps the YPN people (pubisher side) aren’t aware of this. Try reaching the other side of Yahoo or YPN (the advertisers side) and see if they could help you smack the CS that rejected you.

  10. hey …. “a site designed to educate and raise awareness around the topic of …” Sounds like the new tagline of every next splog, doesn’t it ? :>

  11. How can I sign up to be a Yahoo ads publisher?

  12. I myself have been living with Genital Herpes for some time now, and in the beginning the online resources were the only support systems I had. They kept me optimistic and taught me about the disease. From a personal perspective, they’re very valuable to newly infected people and great ways of slowing the spread. I hope Yahoo! reconsiders.

  13. I had a similar experience with gamingandtech.com They for weeks told me all my ads (because of the url) were gambling related. Everytime I would send them an email it would get a response that was verbatim the same as the others: gambling content, gambling ads, etc

    The truth is they saw my url and never visited my site. I finally started sending shock emails like “Yahoo doesn’t like me” and “Yahoo’s customer service is useless” and finally a real person emailed me and then called me. After about 30 seconds she had approved my ads and took care of it all. Not long after my ads got taken down again, same reason, same cust service issues.

    You know they have a minimum too. When I wanted to quit that month, they said they would have to charge me the diff between the $6 I had spent and the $20 minimum. Ugh. And then this month when I went to cancel them, it was already the second so I am going to be charge $20 again. I got so mad I pulled the publisher network ads off my site. They made me zero dollars anyway. Their titles are too long so they abbreviate them with elipses and you can’t tell what they are advertising.

    Sorry so long… ::rant off:: if anyone wants more info you can email me at robyn *at* sleepyblogger.com

  14. Mike said:

    ”I myself have been living with Genital Herpes for some time now, and in the beginning the online resources were the only support systems I had. They kept me optimistic and taught me about the disease. From a personal perspective, they’re very valuable to newly infected people and great ways of slowing the spread. I hope Yahoo! reconsiders.”

    Hi Mike ~

    I hope yahoo really thinks about what they’ve done but somehow I doubt that they really care. I have a close friend whom I’ve known via the internet going on three years now and she was recently told by Perfect Match dating site to remove her affiliate links from her information herpes site. You would think that mainstream dating sites like that would want to do whatever they could to educate their customers on the facts surrounding STDs, the prevalence, and what they can do to protect themselves. Let’s face it; sex is a part of dating sometimes and the more you know about STDs the better informed you are to make informed decisions.

    I just wonder how many other decent causes will be rejected because somebody sitting behind their computer won’t stop for one minute to get their head out of the ass long enough to see that these supportive sites are not pornographic in nature, they don’t promote gambling or illegal activity, and they don’t insight hate or violence. I believe some are too busy playing judge and jury which is why many really good cause will be denied entry into the program.

    I’m quite content to stick with google adsense and keep my eyes open for other programs out there that can help me to cover my out-of-pocket expenses.

    A little bit about me ~ I’ve been online supporting people with herpes simplex virus since 1997. It’s been a long and interesting journey but I wouldn’t change it for the world. If you are interested feel free to check out my bio and our herpes telling story on my main site: yoshi2me.com (That’s the site that was rejected by YPN)

    In the meantime it really sucks trying to figure out which sites I should use to join programs under. I have my herpes help site and four blog spot blogs. One is about pregnancy, the other politics, herpes, and then my most recent one about work at home moms.

    Most of my time is spent helping the newly diagnosed because it’s what saved me when I found my way around back in 1997.

    A big thank you Darren, for seeing the importance of this issue and running with it!!! I’m speechless, grateful, and wish more people would speak up. And Mike, it takes a lot of character to come out and share something so personal. Kudos to you Mike, because you probably have helped somebody tonight by doing so.

  15. Angela’s does not provide the level of value that some of Yahoo’s existing products offer.
    That said I suspect the real reason is that it is not the type of site yahoo wants to be associated with.- there are potential liability issues.
    If Angela actually had 2 cents of legitimacy it might be different, but she has no connection to any hospital, practice, clinic or agency.
    She is practicing ‘medicine’ and assistance with no credentials of any kind.
    Did I mention Angela’s site (yoshi2me.com)sucks?
    No it really does and that also reflects on the value of the whole system.
    Since I see they have accepted her now, I know I want no part of YPN.

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