About me
About me

Separating advertising and editorial – is it possible?


Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 13 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 13 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and wrote about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 13 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

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, 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?

This 881st post was filed under: Site Updates.

Some recently published posts

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Some random old posts

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The offensive mendacity of Iain Duncan Smith / May 2008, 4 minutes long

Comments and responses

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

by sjhoward

Comment posted at 12:14 on 7th June 2006.

I’ve removed the Google ads now, for a number of reasons, and hence dramatically reduced advertising on the site as a whole, which I see as a largely positive step. I’m hopeful that the remaining advertising will still provide enough funding to keep the site running.

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