Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And the award for most egregious violation of our ethics policy goes to ...

Some congratulations are in order ... and some disdain as well. But let's start with the positives.
American Business Media has released the finalists for its Jesse Neal Business Journalism awards. The Neal awards are among the more prestigious prizes in our industry. And it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the best publications in our our industry -- Computerworld, CFO and Editor & Publisher, for example -- are among the finalists.
You can take a look at the full list on this pdf.

But when you read that list of finalists, you may find you are as surprised and disappointed as I am to see that eWeek is a finalist for Best Web Site.
Just yesterday I pointed out that eWeek is in violation of ABM's ethics guidelines. And it's beyond me why the screening judges at ABM would think that a site that embarrasses the entire world of B2B journalism should be considered a symbol of what is best in B2B journalism.
And it's not just the ethical failings that should have ruled out eWeek. The simple truth is that Ziff Davis' eWeek.com has other problems as well.
Take a look. Notice the incredibly slow load time. Try to make it to the bottom of the text-filled monstrosity of a home page without your eyes bleeding. This is the sort of site that must give Jakob Nielsen nightmares.
eWeek is also a functional mess. As I write this piece, I see that the link on the home page that is supposed to take me to a blog post about "the Ballmer Era," instead takes me to a slide show about Microsoft Vista.
The thing that is truly saddest about these shortcomings is that much of eWeek is actually quite good. The site does have some of the things that make for compelling online content -- the blogs and slideshows mentioned above, as well as feedback functions on article pages.
But all that is good about eWeek is overshadowed by the fact that the site is ugly, performs poorly and is tainted by unethical behavior.
(It's worth noting that one of the other finalists for Best Web site is Forbes, where the staff has fought and won a battle against IntelliTXT links.)

So what explains the appearance of eWeek on the ABM list of finalists?
Perhaps the screening judges are unaware of the IntelliTXT problem. Or perhaps the IntelliTXT links began to appear after the judges made their selections (I'm unsure when they first appeared. I became aware of them last week.) That would certainly make more sense than the alternative explanation: that the judges are unfamiliar with best practices in online design and editorial.

Speaking of best practices, Prescott Shibles says the reason three publications in the Prism stable are among the nominees is because they "all focus on editorial integrity." And interestingly, Shibles says that strengthening the line between editorial and advertising has enhanced revenue, not hurt it.

To take a look at ABM's Editorial Code of Ethics, read this pdf file. Make note that ABM is about as clear as can be on the subject of IntelliTXT ads in editorial copy. "Hypertext links that appear within the editorial content of a site, including those within graphics, must be solely at the discretion of the editors. Links within editorial should never be paid for by advertisers."

To read what I thought of last year's winners of the Neal Awards, click here.

And finally, if someone you work with someone who represents the best in B2B ethics, make sure you nominate them for the Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity. The deadline is Feb. 1.

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  1. Hey Paul

    I hate to be the resident sourpuss, but I have to disagree strongly with your comment "And it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the best publications in our our industry -- Computerworld, CFO and Editor & Publisher, for example -- are among the finalists."

    Actually, the best publications in the B2B sector are nowhere to be seen here. I don't know if they even bothered to get into the running.

    It is painfully obvious that entire blocs of the B2B world are absent from the Neals. Where are the financial services B2B books? Where's the entertainment industry B2B books? Or the B2B titles from the real estate industry, or the energy industry, or the travel industry, or the sales and marketing industry, and etc.?

    I've been following these awards for the past couple of years and it is difficult not to notice that same handful of publications constantly in the mix. Are these books really the best of the industry, or are they the only ones who chase the Neals?

    I'll say one positive thing about the Neals: the award show itself is a great production.

  2. Hi Phil,
    There's no doubt that the Neal Awards tend to attract a small pool of companies. That's probably true of most of the awards in our industry. Many publishers -- particularly the smaller ones -- don't want to put up the cash and spend the time to go through the awards process.
    I wish that weren't so. I would like to see more publications win the Neal Awards, but that requires that more publications enter the awards.
    But I stand by my statement that Computerworld, CFO and E&P are "some of the best publications in our industry." I didn't say "all of the best." Nor did I imply it.
    But there's no entry fee or application process in the Conley awards. When I think something is great, I say so. When I feel otherwise, I say that too.
    BTW, Bill at Folio agrees that the Neals need to widen the field:

  3. Duly noted, Paul. Those ethics are slippery little suckers.

  4. Hi Sara,
    Thanks for the comment, the link and the explanation.
    I too will "wager a guess that these rules may change next year."

  5. Paul,


    You are right about eweek's home page. It's a bottomless pit of links that lacks organization and weight. Too many thumbnail images that distract the eye.

    I will say there's something there for everyone. There must be 6+ billion links.

    It's like a table of contents full of 10 or 15 mini TOCs.

    Good work with the blog - Lance

  6. eweek has pulled the intellitxt ads.

  7. Hi Lance,
    Thanks for the comment and thanks for your support.
    Give my regards to the crew in K.C.!
    And Hi to you too Anonymous,
    Thanks for the tip. I hope you're right and the links are gone. I'll take a look.

  8. Hi Anonymous,
    Sorry...as near as I can tell, the IntelliTXT links are still there. I see one in the 10th graf and one in the 11th graf of this story:
    It's possible that eWeek is in the process of getting rid of them. I know that it took awhile for VNU to get rid of them when they made this same silly move a few months ago.
    But for now I'm going to have to assume that eWeek is still in violation of the ethics policy.

  9. Paul, et. al.:

    The Neal Committee takes these comments to heart, and they’ll be discussed before rules are set for next year.

    Arnie Weissmann
    Editor in Chief of Travel Weekly and Chair of the Neal Committee

  10. Hi Arnie,
    Thanks. I'm glad to hear that.