Wednesday, May 09, 2007

One step forward, two steps back

God, this business is getting depressing.
Just as I hear a piece of good news, someone sends me a piece of bad news.

First, the good news.
It appears that Ziff Davis has wised up and removed the ads from within editorial text. Regular readers of this blog know that I've been arguing for this for a week now. A few days ago, the American Society of Business Publication Editors issued a clarification of its ethics policy so that even the folks at Ziff had to accept that the practice violated ASBPE ethics guidelines. And now it looks as if Ziff has retreated. I no longer see the ads on Ziff Davis' sites.
But as good as this new is, I'm cautious. Ziff hasn't issued a statement. And longtime readers of this blog know that we've been down this road before with Ziff.

Now, the bad news.
Just as Ziff Davis seems to have accepted the rules of decent behavior, someone else has decided to violate them.
CMP's InformationWeek is now running the same ads-within-edit links from IntelliTXT that Ziff Davis did. You can see examples here and here.

As pointless as it sometimes feels to do, I will now quote from ASBPE -- "ad links within editorial text should NOT be sold under any condition." And while I'm at it, I'll also quote from American Business Media's ethics guidelines -- "Links within editorial should never be paid for by advertisers."
Now that seems crystal clear to me. But I'm quite sure that someone from CMP will send me an email full of convoluted logic and muddled thinking to explain why selling links in editorial doesn't actually violate the guidelines.

tags: , , , , , , , , advertising


  1. Bill MickeyMay 09, 2007

    That first link is a Reuters story. Populating your site with third-party content does have a positive impact on traffic and eventually revenue, but I wonder if selling links out of that same content by the 'host' site is something the originator ever thought might happen. In other words, if a publisher decides they want to sell links in edit, however misguided that may be, they can certainly go to town with their own stuff, but can they simply lump third-party content in that equation too?

  2. Thanks for continuing to fight this good fight, Paul. Unfortunately, too many publishers and managers keep using the "but this is a tough economy to sell in" excuse. It is totally illogical -- if I don't get a big raise this year, am I allowed to rob a bank, even though it's normally not allowed? -- but I'm afraid that we'll continue to see more and more of this sneaking through.

    Paul J. Heney
    Member, ASBPE Ethics Committee
    President, TABPI

  3. Hi Bill,
    Good point.
    I know that if I worked for Reuters, I'd be furious. But I wonder if anything in Reuters' contracts deals with this.

  4. Paul,
    Thanks for your support.
    By the way, I'd be surprised if you don't get a big raise this year. but if not, be advised that there's nothing in the ASBPE ethics guidelines that prohibits bank robbery.

  5. Kate WorlockMay 10, 2007

    Hi Paul,
    I'm a long-time reader of your blog, and have been following the Ziff-Davis sage with interest.
    It resonated with me as I was reading my book (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson's autobiography of his childhood, which I'm thoroughly enjoying) this morning on the Tube on the way into work. He wrote, when describing the nature of TV in the 1950s:

    "Commercials were often built right into the programmes, which gave them an endearing and guileless charm. On Burns and Allen, an announcer named Harry Von Zell would show up halfway through and stroll into George and Gracie's kitchen and do a commercial for Carnation Evaporated Milk at the kitchen table while George and Grace obligingly waited till he was finished to continue that week's amusing story".

    So - perhaps the Ziff Davis execs were simply nostalgic for a bygone era!

    best wishes,
    Kate Worlock
    Director - Market Intelligence Service
    Outsell Inc.

  6. AnonymousMay 10, 2007

    seems to me that Sys-con media and windows IT Pro also used this adv. trojan horse.


  7. Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for the tip.
    It does appear that Windows IT Pro is acting unprofessionally. I see the ads here:
    But I took a very quick look through Sys-con Media and didn't see the links. Can you post a url in the comment section?

  8. Hello Paul,

    Great work. I completely agree, but let me offer a potential argument to ABM's "crystal clear" ethics guideline. "Links within editorial should never be paid for by advertisers."

    Says publisher: I'd be happy to show you my line-item invoice for XYZ advertiser. Nowhere will you find IntelliTXT ads invoiced. I'll show you XYZ's payments. Nowhere will you find IntelliTXT ad paid for.

    NOT said by publisher: IntelliTXT ads were part of a larger "value-add" media buy.

    So, while the ABM policy is clear, to you, and me, I can certainly find wiggle room, that will allow some people (not me) to sleep well at night.

    Keep up the good work.

    Ben Sclair
    The Suburban Times

  9. I posted this over on Prescott's blog- here is to me the key issue with text links in editorial:

    As an ad sales person, to me, this is a clear indication that you can't sell advertising.

    It makes your site LESS user friendly.

    And finally, to me, this cheapens the look of your site. And if your site is cheap, then it can't have important useful information for an important business leaders, so why would an advertiser spend money trying to reach those kinds of people...


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