Well this should put an end to the debate.
The American Society of Business Publication Editors has issued a formal statement saying "ad links within editorial text should NOT be sold under any condition." The statement comes in response to requests from me and others that ASBPE clarify its ethics guidelines as related to hyperlinks.
If you haven't been following this story, here's the background:
Earlier this week I blasted Ziff Davis for engaging in unethical behavior by selling ads within the editorial sections of its Web sites. The tech publisher had begun using IntelliTXT ads -- in which words in news stories link to advertisements.
Folio magazine wrote a story based on my post. And in that story Michael Vizard, editorial director and senior vice president of the Ziff Davis Enterprise Group, denied doing anything wrong. According to Vizard, selling parts of a news story as an advertisement is "in compliance with existing ASME and ASBPE guidelines as we understand them."
Vizard also said that Ziff Davis would "be inclined to comply" if those "officially recognized bodies adopt specific policies related to IntelliTXT ads."
Now to me, the rules of both organizations were already crystal clear -- editorial space belongs to the editorial department. But in a post last night, I asked those organizations, as well as American Business Media, to clarify things for Vizard.
ASBPE is the first of the three to respond. And I want to thank the organization for moving so quickly on this important issue.
I think it's fair to say that ASBPE's response is clear and strong. You can read the group's entire statement on Folio's blog or in the addendum to the magazine's earlier story. But the bottom line is that ASBPE says "ad links within editorial text should NOT be sold under any condition."
Now I'd like to see ABM clarify its position (although to be honest, the existing language is about as clear as can be: Links within editorial should never be paid for by advertisers.) And I expect that ABM will issue a statement soon. I'd also like to see ASME clarify its position (although, again, I think its guidelines on product placement, which say that editorial pages should be solely under the control of editorial, say all there is to say.) But to be honest, I have little faith in ASME's ability to handle controversy. I don't expect an answer from them for months.
But even if ABM and ASME don't respond, it seems clear to me that Vizard has got his answer:
Selling links in a story is unethical.
So when will Ziff Davis "comply" and pull the ads?
tags: journalism, b2b, media, trade press, magazines, newsletters, business media, journalism ethics, advertising