Warning: This post was published more than 10 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 10 years since I wrote this post.
- This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
- Factual information might be outdated.
- Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.
Many thanks for your understanding.
Back in December, I posted a relatively controversial missive about poor service from an online retailer. Yet I noted that I probably wouldn’t have posted the material had it not been for the fact that the particular retailer was a major advertiser on the site.
At the same time, I claim to have a policy of advertising not influencing editorial. In this case, it clearly has. Is this a big issue? Well, not really. So some random blogger breaks some nominal policy he’s set for himself. Who cares? I do.
I decreed this policy in order to emphasize the fact that my reviews are impartial. I do not give good reviews merely to boost sales and hence site revenue (though sometimes that happens), and I do not give bad reviews merely to court controversy and gain readership (though sometimes that happens too). But should I also not be impartial when it comes to criticising sites which happen to advertise here?
Logically, I probably should. Yet I feel bad doing so. Despite the separation between advertising and editorial, particularly with the old-style vetted banner ads, I felt that featuring on the site was an implicit sign of approval, and hence felt the need to point out my bad experience. Had the retailer not advertised on here, the post would almost certainly not have been published.
The problem is reduced with the introduction of AdSense banners, over which I have little direct control. It’s difficult now for anybody to claim implicit approval. But, of course, I still use ads from (amongst others) Amazon when reviewing products. Does this implicit recommendation take away from my status as an impartial commentator? Again, it’s hard to say. After all, I’m not reviewing the service as such, and, indeed, most of the products reviewed and featuring Amazon adverts were not actually bought from there, so perhaps that situation is a little different. I don’t know.
Advertising on this site is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s only been consistently present for about six months now, though it was present on and off for periods throughout the site’s history. Clearly, the easiest way to remain impartial is not to have advertising on the site at all. But that’s by far the hardest way on my pocket, and probably isn’t sustainable in the long term.
Of course, I’m not the only one this affects. There’s the famous case of the Sunday Times editorial enthusiastically preaching about the wonders of modern cars, and the marvellous things they can do for people – lucky, since car manufacturers support most of the Sunday newspaper market through extensive advertising.
There appears to be no perfect solution. So can advertising and editorial ever truly work together, apart?