As a part of Ask Sponsored Listings (ASL), Ask will launch a new contextual advertising platform in the week of May 21st. This was confirmed by Paul Vallez, Director of Product Management. This looks like a serious attempt to compete with Google Adsense.
I think Ask perfectly understands the weak point of the adsense platform: transparancy. Many adsense publishers (like myself) will agree that Google is providing minimal information. Publishers have no insight in the revenue share, the performance of individual ads and the type of advertisers. Advertisers have to deal with pretty poor statistics regarding contextual advertising. Ask may have a strong selling point by providing better and transparent tools.
The ‘problem’ remains that publishers will not exchange adsense for ASL when that will decrease their revenue. Transparancy or not, it’s the $$ that count. It will be a challenge for Ask to achieve the same coverage and CPC as Google currently has. I certainly hope they will.