It’s really good news that Knight-Ridder is joining Google’s Adwords network.

This is a welcome relief from the alarming growth of “rich-media” advertising. Instead of annoying, intentionally distracting Flash advertising, we’re going to get less-obnoxious text advertising in a context where we’re a lot more likely to be interested in what they’re selling.

Google aggregates so many searches and consequently so many keyword ads that they’re able to sell some extremely specific keywords on sites that could not have justified it. Although, some doubt even Google can do this.

It’s unfortunate that Knight-Ridder’s not big enough to be an ad network all by themselves. But joining Google’s network seems like the right approach–advertising on news sites based on the content of the pages and not simply their unexceptional demographics and reach.The big question is whether Google can aggregate enough ads to justify (at least at the margin) the cost of putting news and information online for free.

Google may be in a position to dominate the back end of the Web experience (as well as the way a lot of sites are financed) the way that they already dominate the front end. No wonder we’re beginning to see some backlash against Google — out of self-interest and paranoia.

There has never been a benevolent monopoly, but Google seems to be a technology company with the soul of a content company. It doesn’t hurt that they seem to have discovered the commercial value of fairness and putting the consumer first. They’re breath of fresh air in the midst of the sleazy venality of Overture and the intrusive pushiness of “rich-media” advertising.