Thursday, November 08, 2007

Good news on the ethics front

I'm in a good mood.
Just a day after I noted in this blog that Ziff Davis' PC Magazine had broken its word and once again violated industry ethics by using ads-within-edit, a reader of this blog sent me some good news.
American Business Media has changed the rules for its Neal Awards. Henceforth "Web sites submitted (for consideration for Best Web Site) should not hyperlink editorial content to advertising or other paid material." (You can read all the rules in this pdf document.)

I'll take some credit for this change. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I complained earlier this year when eWeek was nominated for a Neal Award even though the magazine's Web site violated ABM's ethics policy. Check out this earlier post in which ABM's Sara Sheadel responded and said the organization would likely change its rules.

Selling links inside editorial copy is wrong. It's offensive, misleading and disgusting. It belittles the work that thousands of B2B journalist do every day of their careers. It cheapens a Web site and damages the reputation of all of us in B2B publishing.
ASBPE has ruled on this issue. And now ABM has made its stance clear as well.
ASME, however, remains silent.
And that is just pathetic.

tags: , , , , , , , , advertising


  1. It's not just the B2B's with this issue either. I (and several other reporters) noted with disdain when such ads started appearing in our stories about a month ago. After conferring among ourselves as to the "WTF is corporate thinking?" reason for the ads, it was brought up in our local/online meeting. To which the ME's reaction was, "I don't know. One day they were just there." The largest paper in the state, also owned by the same company, had the same type of in-text ads (the double-underlined green ads that annoy the .... out of you when you accidentally roll over them or God forbid click) for a few months before we saw them roll out here. They even appear on the reader story chats at the bottom of the page!

    Quick Google search pulls up this interesting post on the trend:

  2. Hi Meranda,
    You're right. This is not a B2B-only problem. This is a plague across all of journalism. In magazines, particularly in B2B, we have the advantage that our professional associations have fought back. More importantly, when these ads first rolled out on a few years ago, the staff rebelled.
    In newspapers, the reaction has been pathetic. The Atlanta newspaper has had the ads for several years now. And as far as I know, no newspaper association has come forward to say the obvious -- the link ads violate ethical standards.
    But the real problem here is the reaction -- or lack thereof -- by the journalists at these publications. At PC Mag, the staff should refuse to work until the ads are removed.
    And seriously, when the ME of a newspaper reacts to these things with a shrug and "I don't know. One day they were just there," he has demonstrated beyond any doubt that he does not deserver to be ME.
    Do you happen to have a password for that newspaper's content-management system? I want to put ads for "Paul Conley Consulting" in every single news story. Because apparently the ME won't even wonder about how they got there. He'll just say "I don't know. One day they were just there."
    Journalism has many problems today. But chief among these is the sheer cowardice of those who claim to lead us.

  3. Paul- I'm not sure the editors can just go out on strike.

    But, I think one key difference between b2b and b2c editors is that on the b2b side, they're a bit closer to the business side of things and should certainly be able to offer alternatives - such as to offer or suggest writing a niche blog that might have appeal to advertisers.

    When I see the sites where the edit has become an ad, its abundantly clear that the publishers are completely loss.

  4. The sad thing is that putting ads in edit isn't an effective way to generate revenue based on context -- it's just the lazy way. We've started using a new generation of contextual analysis that serves up links to relevant pages deep within an advertiser's web site. The links are displayed in a separate box and clearly marked as sponsored material, but in mosts cases they actually offer information that should be of interest, if not value, to the reader. Readers get access to additional information, we generate revenue, and no one has to sacrifice editorial integrity.