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Monday, April 30, 2007

Profiting from the Virginia Tech Shootings Online

On the day of the Virginia Tech shootings, most were shocked at the sudden deaths of 32 people, but some saw a unique opportunity to make a buck. News outlets like The New York Times, CNN, and Time magazine bought sponsored ads on Google or Yahoo that showed up when phrases like "Virginia shooting" were searched. The competition was so fierce that ad rates (CPCs) skyrocketed to $5 a click during the week of April 16 before settling at 5 cents a click a week later.
Ads like "Get info on the gunman and other breaking news from CNN.com" showed up.

Other ways of making money involved setting up websites that published breaking news about the tragedy along with links to buy flowers for the victims' families. One such affiliate marketer ran links to sites like From You Flowers and Grower Flowers along with Google Adsense ads on a domain called vashootings.com.

There's nothing new about capitalizing on tragedy. Cable news networks do it all the time by running ads in between breaking the news, but there's an ill-defined line between setting out to profit from tragedy and raking it in as a part of your normal operations. In one case, you go out of your way to make a buck, and in the other, you're just doing your job.


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