Adobe And Yahoo! Placing Ads In PDF Documents

Adobe and Yahoo! are testing a new program that lets publishers place advertisements in PDF documents, reports Reuters. “The Adobe service allows publishers to generate revenue by including text-based ads linked to the content of an Adobe PDF (portable document format) page in a separate side panel.”

We’re curious how this actually works, since Adobe and Yahoo! say that no special software is needed.

The text-based ads are displayed in a panel adjacent to the content with no moving or flashing elements. Each time the PDF is viewed, ads are matched by Yahoo to the content.

It sounds like the ads are dynamic, not static, so we suspect they won’t show up in third-party PDF viewers such OS X’s built-in Preview app.

“Adobe and Yahoo test running ads inside PDF documents” [Reuters]
(Image: Gutenberg Project)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Jaysyn was banned for: says:
  2. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    Oops, I should have said “Free & Open” Replacements.

  3. coan_net says:

    Well I figured Adobe would have started that a long time ago – or at least trying to charge for the Adobe Reader now that they have gotten that format to be a decently used standard being used.

    I see no harm it it – as long as they keep reader free, and the ads don’t interfere with the document.

  4. axiomatic says:

    So long Adobe PDF.

    Hello free replacements.

  5. Skiffer says:

    What’s even more sinister are the plans to do the same sort of thing with video games.

  6. nutrigm says:

    While I’d never under-estimate the power of marketing, this is kind of disturbing. I thought PDF files were the one place I won’t have to deal with pesky unpredictable htmls addresses and page numbers and all that jazz.. just when i was happy with the WYSIWYG-ness of it all!

  7. IphtashuFitz says:

    It sure is nice to know that companies like Adobe and Yahoo are concerned about economic growth. They’ll bend over backwards to create a need for software to strip out the crap that they try to thrust on you. I’m sure there will be a huge market for software tools to remove this unwanted advertising.

  8. woodenturkey says:

    Thank God, because i was worried about not having any new ads shoved in my face

  9. phearlez says:

    Javascript (and all the attendant security issues) has been a part of Acrobat Reader for a long time now. Assuming it supports the functions that make Ajax possible the support to retrieve and display an image dynamically is no big deal.

  10. Jozef says:

    @Skiffer: These things were going on with video games for quite a while. For example, I’ve been playing Anarchy Online, a massive multiplayer game for over three years. In order to increase their revenue, the designers put banners into the online world, which went as far as allowing playing movies with music. Imagine my frustration when I was fighting a creature for five minutes, while listening to a 15-second looped advertisement about joining the US Army. In the game publisher’s defense I’ve got to say that advertisement were only visible to people who played for free; once I switched to regular monthly charge the commercials were turned off for me.

    My concern with this sort of advertisement is a little different. Until recently, text documents (which .pdfs ultimately are), were so far free of any third-party interference. How long before Amazon puts a similar feature into its e-book reader? I see we’re getting ever so close to the wonderful world of commercials as presented in the Minority Report…

  11. NefariousNewt says:

    Well, there you have it — marketing will soon control the world! Look, if I’m reading a PDF file, it’s because there is some information in the file I want. I do not need an irrelevant, unwanted, asinine advert gumming it up. What’s next? Are they going to replace our retinas with view screens and beam ads directly into our heads?

  12. Imaginary_Friend says:

    Free Replacements PDF Apps for those using a Mac (if you don’t want to use the built-in Preview in OSX.xx):

    Skim for viewing:

    PDF Lab for manipulating:

    Suck it, Adobe.

  13. STrRedWolf says:

    Folks, if you haven’t read the PDF spec Adobe gives out, don’t guess at how it works.

    I’ll give you a hint: PDF is just compressed Postscript, aka what most printers use to render a page before the image gets slapped onto paper. Postscript is more powerful than Javascript, and has been used as a user interface in old NeXTstep computers (Display Postscript) as well as printers and plotters.

    Want to know my guess? Adobe tells the PDF the media is “Screen.” The PDF adjusts and shows ads. When printing, Adobe shoves the entire PDF to the printer, which says the media is “Letter-sized Paper” and the ads don’t show. It’s coded into the PDF level and is irrespective of the Acrobat reader.

  14. STrRedWolf says:

    BTW, this also means the ads show in MacOS X, Ghostscript, and other free viewers too.

  15. KJones says:


    Much obliged to Jaysyn, although I already knew about those and use one.

    People who see my computer at work wonder why I use version 5.05 of the Adobe reader, yet the same people then whine, “I don’t like that ‘buy’ button on the menu bar!” in version 7.

    Adobe is shooting themselves in the foot. Too bad they aren’t aiming higher.

    Like their heads.

  16. Beerad says:

    I’d just like to say I’m totally repulsed by the picture accompanying this post.

  17. facework says:

    @NEFARIOUSNEWT — marketing already controls the world.

    I’m still trying to get the SCIFI network to stop running giant ad banners over the opening credits of XFiles (and all those other channels that float huge, obnoxious ads over “slow” moments), Regal Cinemas to stop showing commercials, Gmail to quit scanning my e-mail. The only wait to stop is to just give up everything! Agh. I quit.

  18. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @ STRREDWOLF – Even if your guess is correct, there’s nothing to stop a reader from copying the article only and pasting it into one of the free viewers to read… without ads.

  19. cde says:

    Simply, it’s on the fly creation of the pdf. Each Download, not saved copy will have a different ad.

  20. Adobe is shooting themselves in the foot. Too bad they aren’t aiming higher.

    Like their heads.

    @KJones: You win.

    @STrRedWolf: If you’re right then I shouldn’t expect to see ads suddenly pop up in research papers, correct?

    The article should have explained how it works.

  21. Kierst_thara says:

    …so what if I’m viewing a PDF on a computer that doesn’t have a net connection; or better yet, what if I just block Acrobat’s access to the internet? How will these documents react if Acrobat can’t load the dynamic ads?

  22. mandarin says:

    Adobe is really stupid these days… I mean Yahoo is known to be an idiot already..

  23. TangDrinker says:

    “In earlier private test included technology and professional publishers IDG InfoWorld, Wired, Pearson Plc’s Pearson Education, Meredith Corp and Reed Elsevier NV.”

    Elsevier better not include this crap in the pdfs for sci tech journals that libraries subscribe to and/or individual researchers purchase for $35 a piece. This article claims it is a “free” alternative to subscription based plans, but I wouldn’t slip it past them to add the ads anyways. Please, no one tell Thomson about this.

    The publishing industry, especially in the legal and scientific fields, is something Consumerist should do an expose about. What other industry jacks up prices 20% each year?

  24. fairweather says:

    more ads! yay! how did they know?

  25. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Goodbye,’s been nice knowing you.

  26. Andrew says:

    Coming up next: AdBlock for PDF’s. Either that or a Free and Open Source alternative.

  27. mammalpants says:

    i feel sorry for the mortgage brokers and OBGYNs that use PDFs in their daily workflow.

    the targeted ads are going to be fun for them!

    adobe is really suckin it hard these days. there are 15 different creative suites to choose from and they all cost more than my soul.

  28. Benstein says:

    PDF is *not* an Adobe proprietary format. PDF is an open standard, which is being considered as an ISO standard. There are free and non-Adobe alternatives for PDF viewing and creating. Microsoft wanted to include native PDF support in Vista, but was threatened legal action by Adobe *not* because Adobe owns the standard, but because of monopolistic reasons (similar to the Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player arguments).

    I recommend Sumatra for a good Windows Adobe replacement. And it doesn’t leak memory and crash your PC like Adobe does, and it doesn’t call home even when you tell it not to.

  29. Fizzle000 says:

    Each and every time my computer at work needs to load an Adobe document
    it takes about 20 seconds just for the Acrobat Professional splash screen
    to go away and about 20 more seconds to actually see the PDF, extremely annoying!!!
    Plus the entire computer slows down noticeably, not just the Adobe app!

    It’s as if they hired ex Microsoft employees to add another 4MB of bloat
    in each new version. Version 5 works better most of the time on my home
    system but more and more creators are now unecessairly saving their work
    unecessairly higher version formats.

    Always save the PDF in the lowest possible version!!!