Anyone logging into Google Reader today was treated to a new promotion from the search giant, offering the chance to earn points in its ReaderAdvantage program.
Users collect points by reading articles via their Reader account, which collects customized RSS feeds. Anyone enrolling in the program gets a free membership badge. And then, according to the site, "you can trade your points for pretty much anything you could ever want: Decepticon USB drives, Braille Rubiks cubes, and much more."
Google's offer for ReaderAdvantage combines the appeal of popular Internet offers — like the opportunity to surf the Web for a living — with monetary incentives many credit card companies provide.
Google's offer for ReaderAdvantage combines the appeal of popular Internet offers — like the opportunity to surf the Web for a living — with monetary incentives many credit card companies provide. Screengrab/NPR
According to the terms of the service, members could also earn points for offline reading. Google says to "send in a photo of yourself reading the newspaper, comics, or tabloids, along with an itemized list of items read and we'll credit the points to your account in 8-12 months."
The offer included wacky testimonials — the first clue of its not-so-serious nature:
"Now that I've reached the secret Diamond Princess level, my points accrue in triplicate. I can just sit and press 'j' all day long without actually reading anything, use my points to pay for food and clothing, and keep doing just that... forever." — M—e L., Mileage Runner
In a post titled Google Reader gives back, Google blogger Zach Yeskel explains how the new pseudo-monetary system was developed: "One thing led to another, we did a few calculations, drank a few too many cups of coffee, and today we're happy to announce Google Reader's first rewards program."
Anyone reading the fineprint on the page would find these rules and caveats:
*Because it wouldn't be a rewards program without them, blackout dates and restrictions apply
*Items read on toilet will not be counted.
*Clicking "Mark all as read" will not earn you any points. Nice try smarty-pants.
*We may decide this is a joke at any time.
The company evidently has a soft spot for April Fool's Day. In addition to the Advantage offer, visitors to the main search page saw the word "Topeka" in place of the Google name — a reference to the Kansas town that, in a push to get Google's fiber-optics service, adopted the company's name as its own, unofficially, of course.
Word is that Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten has been inundated by calls and emails — something he's set to discuss on Morning Edition Friday morning. How hard will he be laughing if Topeka doesn't make it into Google's program?