The Huffington Post will accept advertising in its comment sections and in the Twitter feeds it features among its pages, in an attempt to increase revenue for the high-traffic news and commentary website.
Advertisers would receive advice on how to go about participating in the comments and tweets, creating a dialogue with readers, Chief Revenue Officer Greg Coleman said. For example, an advertiser sponsoring the Twitter World Series page, which provides a curated discussion in real time via Twitter about the topic, might chip in with relevant statistics, he said.
"You cannot use the social engagement for the purposes of really hawking your products," he told Advertising Age. "The advertiser is really put in a position where they need to add value to the conversation that's taking place."
His comments appear optimistic. How will marketing experts react to being told by a publication that they can't use the ad space they have purchased to, as he puts it, hawk their products?
And how will readers respond to seeing the comment section, a forum for audience participation and debate, dotted with advertising? Even if, as promised, ads are clearly identifiable?
Although no advertisers have yet signed up, the plan is generating interest. CEO of interactive advertising agency Deep Focus, Ian Schafer, told Advertising Age that this method would be more effective than buying banner ads. "With those the default behavior is to ignore them," he said. "With this the default behavior may be to pay attention."
Over on Twitter, response was split between distaste and acceptance, according to the Wall Street Journal, with some users asking if the extra revenue thus generated would be diverted to the website's unpaid bloggers.
Aside from the sponsored comments, Mr Coleman has recently commissioned third-party research to better target readers, and made plans for four new sales executives, in what The Guardian called a "set of aggressive moves". It is hoped that these steps will more than double revenue by next year.
The Huffington Post has a robust user base. It will be interesting to see whether the introduction of sponsored comments provokes a user backlash, or receives begrudging acceptance.