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Tiger Woods, Ashley Dupre and the Peril of AOL's Seed

In case you hadn't noticed, it's been quite a few weeks in tabloid-ville. Such a few weeks, in fact, that The New York Post has launched not one, but two online products that were, um, birthed from the Tiger Woods scandal. One is the Tiger Woods blog; the other, launched today, is the new Ashely Dupre advice column, penned by the prostitute who serviced "Client 9" a few years back, aka former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. (If you're wondering what the connection is between the two, Dupre criticized the many women coming out of the, er, Woodswork several weeks ago for accepting money and gifts from Tiger and then trying to squeeze more money out of tabloids by blabbing. That diatribe seems to have led to the column.)

So what does this have to do with Aol's Seed? As has been previously reported, Seed promises to use the power of algorithms to determine what content the people want. But there's a massive difference between what people want to read and what advertisers want to associate themselves with. If this weren't the case, Accenture and Gillette would still be 100 percent behind Tiger because content about him is currently popular. No such thing as bad publicity, right? Wrong!

In the print world, pruriently popular content is often anything but a liability. If whatever is between the pages, and on the cover, sends copies flying off the newsstands, money is made.

The ad running adjacent to the Tiger Blog is for Verizon Wireless, a respectable advertiser to be sure, but the list of advertisers who want to be associated with that content is inherently shorter, no matter how much traffic the blog gets. I was going to do a compare-and-contrast of who is advertising where in the Post to make my point, but realized there's too much I don't know -- such as what advertisers turned the "opportunity" down, and whether the rate is any different because of the content, which today even includes a headline titled:"14th woman to be linked to Tiger identified: report." Great.

This post is not to say that Seed will be all about scandal. There's bound to be tons of news-you-can-use features and human interest stories that don't involve secret girlfriends. But there's something to be said for algorithms not ruling the world.

Previous coverage of Aol at BNET Media:

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