Complementary and alternative medicine Computers and social media Medicine Quackery

Who knew? Mike Adams and I share a problem

Forgive me if I’m feeling a little schadenfreude right now.

My current blog location has been criticized in the past for a variety of things, including, most recently, Pepsigate. One of the things that we’ve been criticized for is our on-again off-again use of Google Adsense, where the content of the page dictates which ads pop up. For skeptical blogs, this sometimes has some rather embarrassing consequences. For instance, when I write about vaccines, sometimes the ad server would serve up ads for chelation therapy or anti-vaccine quack nostrums. Ditto when I wrote about homeopathy, which sometimes results in the appearance of ads for homeopathic remedies. Over the years, I’ve fluctuated between extreme annoyance at this, not wanting to promote such quackery, and more of a bemused attitude, where I realize that my regular audience is about as hostile to such quackery as an audience can be and that, even if any of them actually bothered to click on any of the ads, it would be more out of curiosity and a desire to ridicule than to buy anything. That leaves the “sponsors” paying for clicks that bring them no business, and I wasn’t about to lose much sleep over it. On the other hand, such ads popping up on a skeptical blog really do look bad; so when rogue content-driven ads are pointed out to me, I do complain to our benevolent overlords at Seed about them, and they do block them. Eventually. Even so, these ads all too often persist longer than I would like them to.

Given the annoyance that Google Adsense and various other copycat systems that try to use algorithms to target ads to the content of a blog post have caused me over the nearly five years I’ve been here at ScienceBlogs, I was amused to no end to find out that über-quack Mike Adams has the same problem:

Many readers have written us to ask why they sometimes see a Google ad appearing on our site for something we oppose such as a pharmaceutical or junk food product. On the left of each article, we publish a 300 x 250 Google Adsense ad. Google uses a keyword detection algorithm to determine which ads appear to be the most relevant to the article page, but this algorithm isn’t able to take into account whether we are writing in favor of something or against it.

As a result, when we write about antidepressant drugs, for example, ads may appear that are promoting antidepressant drugs. This is frustrating to us as well as our readers, because we do not wish to promote products or services that are not aligned with our core beliefs.

Can you say “schadenfreude“? Sure, I knew you could. To say that Adams’ predicament is amusing is an understatement. It couldn’t be happening to a nicer guy. Of course, this guy hates pharmaceutical ads, but has an ad on his site that promise to cure “almost any cancer” at home for a mere $5.15 a day. Other ads shill for nonsense like colloidal silver, “thyroid helper,” fertility boosters, light water filters, and a wide variety of other nonsense. Personally, I’d take the pharma ads.

In any case, I suppose I could suggest to Mr. Adams that, if he wants to remain perfectly pure, he could forego all advertising. He won’t, of course, because he’s in it for the money just as much as any pharmaceutical company. The difference is, he can’t afford to admit it because his income depends on his being seen as somehow “purer” than pharmaceutical companies, and there are regulations that limit the claims that pharmaceutical companies can make for their products that are actually enforced.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

19 replies on “Who knew? Mike Adams and I share a problem”

It’s frustrating to Mike Adams, however, because HealthRanger that he is, he’d rather sell his readers some herbal potion himself rather than let Big Pharma get the money…

Though, I suppose money spent on “alt health” products undergoes some sort of transubstantiation involving peace and light that makes his consumerist shilling somehow better than that of tested, reliable science…

First, I wonder if Mike Adams also gets people stating, Jake Crosby-style, that the presence of advertisements for on his site invalidates his claims on .

Second, the most irritating advertisement I’ve encountered here was that damn one that kept playing bad “Hallowe’en”-ish music.

You, Mike Adams, and most of the Internet has that problem.

I’m not sure it’s a problem, though. You can look it as a problem or not, but as I see it, there are couple of silver linings. One: people who read your site aren’t likely to visit those sites for anything more than a cheap laugh. So you’re not really adding to their income. However, you are costing them money, as they are paying for that ad. Two: the ads are a case in point of what you are talking about. They are often relevant, albeit not in exactly the way the advertiser or Google AdSense intended.

I’m not suggesting anything, but you do know that Google AdWords allows advertisers to target ads to particular sites, right? I’m totally not suggesting that someone build a banner ad for this blog. And I’m not suggesting that someone take up a collection to fund the ad placements, and then target the ad right onto Adams’ site.

I’m not suggesting that. Because that would be cruel.

I ignore ads, so I couldn’t care less what the content is. But what annoys me is that the browser waits for the ad servers content before it shows me the page. I’ll frequently look at a blank page, with something like “waiting for…” on the status bar. And during busy times that can be around 30 seconds or more.

… I take it “thyroid helper” isn’t anything like the thyroxine tablets my mother’s been taking for twenty-odd years since her goiter operation.

Even worse – when I saw “thyroid helper” I thought of some noodles-and-spices-in-a-box product that helps you stretch a pound of thyroid so that you can feed your entire family.

Let’s hope the Overlords at Seed don’t start using the software that automatically picks out certain words in a post and creates links to commercial websites. That way, Orac could wind up unintentionally promoting a supplement seller just by using a keyword that triggers the link (a gardening website I post to uses this technology, and it is irritating at best).

We face exactly the same problem, but I stopped worrying about it ages ago, and now, I will only block the most egregious ads.

Now, I have no idea how Science Blogs supports itself and its contributors, I know I have to pay mine – that’s on top of my own expenses, development costs, programming and everything else, of course. For the most part, the revenue from advertising supports the site, which allows us to provide a valuable service for free.

The point is, there has always been an apparent conflict between editorial material and advertising. In the offline world, it happens ALL the time, but folks seem to be
better able to take it in context there (for whatever reason).

The same people who just watched a news special on the prominence of prescription drugs don’t even blink when it is followed by a commercial for Ambien.

That’s because they recognize the difference the difference between editorial and advertising. Online, likely because of the proximity of the offending ads to the editorial copy, it seems to be more difficult.

Here’s how I addressed it…

We’re about to expand this message to include a warning that just because an ad appears on a trusted site, doesn’t mean that product/company/service is endorsed
by web site hosting it.

As usual, love your work!


Darn it, Dangerous Bacon took my joke.

“Thyroid helper.” Come on. Take it from a hypothyroidism patient – if your thyroid’s malfunctioning, you’ll know about it.

More Schadenfreude: for 2 years Mikey has been harping on about how American society and our economy have been crumbling before *our very eyes*, how Americans’ most precious freedoms are threatened daily, how Big Pharma rules instead of _the People_. He went on and on about his creation of a *pied a terre* in lovely, non-toxic, health freedom-friendly Ecuador- his sanctuary from the approaching storm. Well, it appears that he’s back in the good old USA: today ( NaturalNews, in his post about Whole Foods) he talks about *local* places in Tucson. Why oh why, I wonder, did his leave this paradise on earth? Why is he back in the land of lobbyists, mandated vaccination(sic), and toxic supermarkets?

I guess that is one of the benefits of viewing this site through a firewall. where the advertisement should be i just get a white block. this is because my workplace firewall does not allow advertisements.

Downside: any site that gets ads from any dating website is also blocked (if you look this is a bucket load of websites)

Slightly off topic but my nine-year-old just used her math skills to good effect while we were waiting for some photo prints at our local pharmacy.

I picked up a 10ml bottle of homeopathic Rescue Remedy and after explaining its supposed magic qualities, and seeing her eyes widen in puzzlement and disbelief when I got to the bit about shaking the water and all that weird stuff they do with a leather-bound book, I asked her to work out the price per litre: $2700!

“Are some grown-ups really stupid enough to pay that much for some shaken bottled water?’ she asked.

I can’t for the life of me understand how a science-trained pharmacist can bring himself to have that crazy stuff on his shop shelves, but isn’t it great to see a good little sceptic in the making?

I have, of course, no sympathy for someone like Adams. But the thought that there is such a thing as “ads for antidepressors” enrages me too. Drugs are not candy. The fact that it’s allowed to advertise for them is a scandal.

I seem to remember one blogger dealt with this by writing comments above a bad AD saying “don’t trust this guy” and giving links.

The Science Blogs ads have definitely got better. I’m seeing a lot more scantily clad male underwear models now selling underwear for Freshpair. I get science and sex appeal, yum! 🙂

I can’t for the life of me understand how a science-trained pharmacist can bring himself to have that crazy stuff on his shop shelves, but isn’t it great to see a good little sceptic in the making?

¥€₳H, It’$ ¢onfu$ing

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