Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Format) is one of the most popular ways to distribute printed information electronically. But until now, there hasn't been an easy way for a business to earn money from the content it publishes in PDF form.
The recently announced Ads for Adobe PDF powered by Yahoo service lets you add pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements to your PDFs at the touch of a button. You earn money when readers click on an ad. You may not make big bucks using this beta service, but it costs nothing for you to sign up and try it out.
Aimed at PDF Publishers
The new service is a logical extension of existing online advertising networks, such as those run by Yahoo and Google, which distribute PPC ads for Web pages. With one of these networks, a business simply signs up for an account and then adds code provided by the network to its Web pages. (In an earlier column, "Make Your Web Site Pay: Google AdSense," I discussed how you can make money from your Web site using one such network, Google's AdSense.
Ads for Adobe PDF lets you do the much same thing with PDF documents: After you sign up and submit your PDF for processing, the service places up to five ads supplied by Yahoo on a panel to the right of your document; the ads do not obscure the document's content in any way.
The service might be particularly valuable for a publisher that creates a significant quantity of PDF content such as articles, newsletters, and how-to guides. You can distribute PDFs either by posting them on a Web site or by e-mailing them.
Using Ads for Adobe PDF
During the beta period--which has no set termination date--a limited number of U.S.-based publishers who apply for an account will be approved (Yahoo hasn't specified the exact number). Setting up an account doesn't cost anything, and there are no monthly fees. But you must provide a fair amount of information in your online application, including details about the number of new and existing PDFs you'd like to submit to the program and the type of content you intend to publish.
In my tests of an account that Adobe created for evaluation purposes, I found the service very easy to use. I logged in to my account, clicked the Register PDF button, and uploaded a PDF from my PC.
At first, the file status was set to Pending, indicating that the service was processing my PDF. But within a couple of minutes, I saw the file status change to Registered, and shortly thereafter I received an e-mail with the PDF modified to accept ads.
The service decides on the number of ads to display based on the level of advertiser demand for placement in the PDF's content. In the PDFs I tested, the service placed four or five text advertisements. Initially, none of the ads were particularly relevant to the PDFs' contents: The PDFs discussed business software, yet all displayed the same ad for natural cosmetics. Within an hour or so, however, the ads changed and became more relevant to software.
Each PDF file is registered to display ads from the service for 180 days, after which the publisher may re-register the file (the service notifies you via e-mail when a PDF's registration is about to expire). You may cancel a file's registration at any time, thereby terminating the ad displays.
Limitations of the Ad Service
The advertising service has a few limitations. A PDF file must be no larger than 5MB. Files may not include sensitive content such as references to drugs, war, or adult material.
You can't change the advertising layout nor the format of the ad panel. Like most PPC ad networks, the service specifies the ad keywords, not the publisher.
When a reader opens an ad-enabled PDF file distributed by e-mail, a pop-up notes that sponsored content has been added to the document. It asks the reader to permit an Internet connection to Adobe's Web site. If the reader does not approve, ads won't display. This pop-up does not appear on PDFs linked to a Web page, since in that case an Internet connection has already been established.
In the future, Adobe intends to integrate the ad-insertion technology into some of its content-creation software products--perhaps InDesign or Acrobat--so that publishers won't have to use the online portal to ad-enable PDFs.
How Much Will You Earn?
Earnings from the PPC ads are split between Adobe, Yahoo, and the publisher. Again, there's no guarantee that a publisher will earn anything from displaying the PDF advertisements.
How much you make depends on how much advertisers pay for the ads that are displayed alongside your content and how many readers click on them. To earn a significant amount from advertising, you'll need to have a good PDF distribution network, such as a frequently visited Web site or a large mailing list.
Earnings are paid out after a minimum accumulation of $100--unless you opt to be paid via PayPal, in which case you need to earn at least $50 to be paid.
Ads for Adobe powered by Yahoo is an easy-to-use, potentially profitable service that merits evaluation by PDF publishers. The service will extend the reach of Yahoo's Publisher Network and may entice more advertisers to run a Yahoo campaign. If nothing else, it proves that Google isn't the only innovator in online advertising.
Richard Morochove is an IT consultant and writer. Send him questions about using technology in your connected small to mid-size business via e-mail. PC World may edit your query and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.