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Salon grasps at "advertorial" straws, New York Times gets the vapors

By rusty in Media
Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:26:04 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

It was a cold morning in Maine. The mercury was lower than the Rollback prices at Wal-Mart, so I pulled on my hooded Polartec fleece sweatshirt and wrapped my hands around a steaming mug of Green Mountain Colombian Supremo Popayan coffee as I clicked through my usual morning round of websites.

MetaFilter is always among my first reads of the day, delivering punchy and offbeat links with an irreverent attitude. But today I could only gape in horror at the first story that greeted me, like a viewer of DreamWorks Pictures recent scare-fest "The Ring." "Sony writes 'article' for Salon," it said, going on to explain that online magazines including Salon, National Geographic, and Parent Soup have all run "advertorial" features written by freelancers and paid for by Sony Electronics.

The articles don't mention specific products, but are short "lifestyle" pieces geared toward the particular site's demographics. The article in Salon, for example, chronicles the journey of two ex-dot-commers on an "Eco-Odyssey" around the world. The pair, Drew Weiner and Val Sarver, kept an online journal where they posted photos and stories from their trip, and also operated an email newsletter. All, of course, with the help of the fine Sony products featured on the right side of the page.

The article is labeled "feature by Sony advertising series" above the text and in the page title, but the byline is "Mark Yarm," and the page look and feel is otherwise identical to any other Salon story page. That's what set off the original Metafilter poster, who calls him or herself 4easypayments.

"Is this sort of thing ever ethical? ... Clearly the ad/articles are intended to appear to be regular content," 4easypayments asks. My first thought was "No! Never!" Readers place their faith and trust in the news media precisely because of the strict "separation of church and state." When your job is to shine the Mag-Lite of truth into the dark corners of the world, I thought, it behooves you to be avoid even the slightest whiff of impropriety. After all, what sites like Salon and Parent Soup do, what all news organizations do, is far too important to risk any taint of crass commercial influence. It has long been newsroom gospel that the wall between editorial and advertising has got to be tougher than a RubberMaid trash barrel.

Of course, as several Metafilter posters pointed out immediately, "advertorials" are nothing particularly new. Magazines have run them for ages, though usually with more markedly different layout from their regular editorial features. In fact, scrolling through the discussion, I was struck by how blase most posters were about it. "It happens all the time," was a common refrain. "Whatever keeps salon afloat, I guess." said delmoi.

That got me thinking. I chewed pensively on the end of a Bic Soft Touch Roller pen, absentmindedly admiring its comfortably ergonomic grip, as I considered this point. Between the ongoing ad slump and weblogs draining their audience, the real news media are having an awfully hard time making it these days. It costs a lot of money to keep up the high standards of journalistic excellence to which we've become all too accustomed. After all, I thought, a Chevy Avalanche might be able to change from a truck to an SUV, but it won't go anywhere unless you put gas in it. The newspeople can't do their important jobs if there isn't any money coming in. Maybe a fluffy advertorial now and then isn't going to do any lasting harm.

But just when I found myself waffling like an Eggo, I noticed that the New York Times has turned down this campaign. As reported in AdAge, New York Times digital nixed the new Sony capaign because "on NYTimes.com, advertorial content must be clearly labeled to distinguish it from editorial content, and we were unable to agree upon a program ... that would meet these advertising acceptability guidelines."

Well that cast the doubt from my mind faster than a Shimano Calcutta TE reel can cast a Black Mamba lure. The Gray Lady has long stood for the ultimate in journalistic excellence, and if they said no to this, the oddsmakers in sunny and family-friendly Las Vegas are going to tell you that's the right answer.

While advertising fads may come and go, and online news is still finding its economic feet, the bedrock principles of this noble profession don't change with the winds. Other sites may compromise their integrity, but we can take heart that the core ethics of journalism remain sound as long as we know that we'll never find the venerable New York Times pimping for Sony.


Voxel dot net
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Related Links
o Rollback prices at Wal-Mart
o hooded Polartec fleece sweatshirt
o Green Mountain Colombian Supremo Popayan coffee
o MetaFilter
o The Ring
o Sony writes 'article' for Salon,
o Salon
o National Geographic
o Parent Soup
o online journal
o posted photos
o stories
o Mag-Lite
o RubberMaid trash barrel
o Bic Soft Touch Roller pen
o ongoing ad slump
o weblogs draining their audience
o Chevy Avalanche
o Eggo
o New York Times has turned down this campaign
o Shimano Calcutta TE reel
o Black Mamba
o sunny and family-friendly Las Vegas
o pimping for Sony
o Also by rusty

Display: Sort:
Salon grasps at "advertorial" straws, New York Times gets the vapors | 79 comments (57 topical, 22 editorial, 0 hidden)
Wasn't 'Focus On...' the same sort of thing? (5.00 / 2) (#1)
by dram on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 06:08:38 PM EST

I realize that the 'Focus On...Digital ID' wasn't an advertisement the same way that this aditorial is, but isn't the idea the same? A company pays for some sort of sponsored content? At least that's the first idea that struck me as I read this. Something else to ponder I guess.


I never made a red cent (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by imrdkl on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 07:06:42 PM EST

on that section. What I contributed to it was to support what seemed to be a slowly sinking ship (k5) upon which I was a relatively new passenger. 'course, once the membership thing kicked in, the section was tossed away like an old rag, but that's beside the point. Nobody got paid for digid except k5 support and Monacles, Inc.

An eco-tour would have been nice, however. I'll consider that, when it becomes available from the CMF.

[ Parent ]

Indeed (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:00:45 PM EST

Hypocrisy is rampant here on k5, sad to see rusty fall into the same pit with the rest of the dogs. As old generals say: "Don't do as I do, do as I say."

Whether rusty, k5 or the Digital ID people made any money out of it is beyond the point. Salon is doing the same exact thing k5 was doing with Digital ID: trying to keep a sinking website afloat for a few months more. But Salon is obviously in the wrong since they have an evil megacorp as their backers.

Focus On...Digital ID made me as sick as these advertorials. It achieves the same thing: helps a site financially at the cost of editorial integrity. Hope these advertorials face the same destiny as our advertorials, but I doubt it.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell

[ Parent ]
They are not one and the same... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Hamster on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 01:21:02 AM EST

in that Focus on Digital ID stories had to be approved by the K5 community. They were not similar to these advertorials.

[ Parent ]
I don't agree with the sentiment of your comment. (none / 0) (#59)
by dram on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 02:00:52 PM EST

Although I feel that this Salon advertorial and K5's 'Focus On...' section are closely related, they are different, and I don't feel it is a problem that either site does this. However, if you dislike the taste of what Salon has done there still might be reasons to not dislike 'Focus On...'.

The main difference is that on Salon it is an editorial decision made by a few people, on K5 it is an editorial decision made by the sites membership as a whole. This is an important difference, because on K5 the membership isn't as pressured by the economics of running the site as the editorial board or Salon is.

Also, with 'Focus On...' companies were not trying to sell anything. Instead they were trying to find out our opinions and ideas on a specific subject. I think that the information that 'Focus On...' was trying to get was a lot more valuable than the advertising that is going on at Salon, it is also less offensive.

So before you lump 'Focus On...' and Salon's advertorials together in one boat you should look at the differences. All I was saying in my earlier comment was that they both share some common characteristics, but they aren't the exact same.


[ Parent ]

As the guy who started that 'Focus on...' (none / 0) (#67)
by Adam Theo on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 06:57:41 PM EST

I don't think the 'Focus On...' and Salon's method are the same, although they are related.

First of all, Digital ID World wasn't paying to place advertisements as/in stories, they were sponsoring a section. K5 got a bit of cash (and since this was before the membership drive, it was badly needed), and DIDW got to watch the comments and attitudes of people who posted to the section as well as show their name and link around a bit.

The stories were not decided by DIDW and shoved down our throats, they were not even all written by DIDW people. They were like every other story in every respect.

So yeah, they are similar, but I believe the 'Focus On...' wasn't bad at all.

-- "A computer geek free-market socialist patriotic American Buddhist."
[ Parent ]

I agree. (none / 0) (#78)
by dram on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 05:27:44 PM EST

Read my comment here.


[ Parent ]
This is not new. (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by LukeyBoy on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 06:27:32 PM EST

Print journalism has done this for a long time - I have TIME magazines that are about ten years old that have articles spanning a dozen pages from IBM with identical formatting to the standard stories, and have the phrase "Special Advertisement" across the top.

I'd tell you more but my computer is extremely slow right now and I'm rapidly out-typing the textbox. Guess I should have looked more closely at that ad.

Who is going to write for Sony? (none / 0) (#12)
by thenick on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 08:15:45 PM EST

They should hire David Manning to write for them. Manning did a great job for their Columbia Pictures division in the past.

"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex

Funny. (4.75 / 4) (#16)
by terpy on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 08:32:08 PM EST

I noticed the "Eco-Traveler" thing on Salon, and also a Sony "Revolutionary A/V Gear" article on Wired. I honestly thought: "Well how about that, it's a damn good idea. This is a labelled online infomercial. Why isn't my company doing this?"

I saw immediately the fact that these are "sponsored". maybe I sw that right away because I've developed radar for such things after countless hours (really a metric arse-load) of web browsing.

Maybe this is the same as me seeing those lame "Your computer is broadcasting an Internet IP address" banner ads for what they are while someone less savvy might not.

But I don't think so. I think these ads are perfectly legitimate because they are very clearly labelled, and do not necessarily prey upon the absolute ignorance of a given consumer.

The unfortunate thing about this ad format is that it is sure to become more devious as time goes on, (this seems to be the nature of most corporate marketing campaigns) and I am afraid it will eventually reach the same level of deception as the "Your computer is broadcasting an Internet IP address" banner ads. The descent of the ads to this level will be unfortunate, however - it will also act as a barometer of teh integrity of a given site. Once Wired and Salon begin to hide the labels for these ads in super small fonts or obscure places, we will know the opinions they hold of their readers - and I will know it's time for me to find new sites to read.

IN SOVIET RUSSIA, Kissinger is still a Cockmaster --Psycho Les

Welcome to (none / 0) (#19)
by billt on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:24:37 PM EST

the real life version

I honestly don't think it is wrong. (none / 0) (#22)
by jdrake on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 11:31:38 PM EST

I honestly don't think what Sony Erricson is doing is wrong. It seems more clever. People are trained to almost ignore most common forms of advertising. It is sometimes inconvenient to turn your head to see a 'banner' which is in fact a billboard. Just as it is inconvenient to have a popup 'billboard' (which is in fact a banner).

So what do you do...

Google has text ads that relate to exactly what you are looking for.

Sony has advertising that involves getting peoples' interest. I think it is completely honest if properly done.

Traditionally you have to advertise a product on a billboard and hope somebody comes to your (et al.) store to see the product and try it out and/or buy it.

In this way you actually see the product right up and if it interests you (and you are not shy - a lot of people are) - you could actually go up to them and talk to them OR at least you saw the product in motion instead of on an impersonal wall.
- If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around, is there any sound?
- If the universe is created, and nobody is around, is there any bang?

[ Parent ]

Here's what's wrong... (none / 0) (#76)
by TCaptain on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:58:01 PM EST

At least in what i read from the WSJ article linked  in the parent post:

"So far, so good. But do the actors then identify themselves as working on behalf of Sony Ericsson? Not if they can help it. The idea is to have onlookers think they've stumbled onto a hot new product."

They try to AVOID identifying themselves as working for Sony Ericson.  I'm sorry, but by any definition, that's intentionally misleading.  

That's just a step away from having plain clothes employees walking around the best buy and striking up conversations with ppl who are looking at Sony products and pretending that they've just bought one (of whatever the "mark" is looking at) and extolling the joys they've had from it.

(Or worse, striking up conversations with ppl who are eyeing the competition, then pretending to have picked up that item and being extremely unhappy with it...)

Its astroturfing pure and simple and its not honest.

I hate conventional marketting as it is...why does it HAVE to keep being sneakier, more intrusive, more dishonest at every step?

If you're advertising something...at least let me know you're advertising.

Hello, my name is PID 12759. You "kill -9"ed my parent. Prepare to die. - ENOENT

[ Parent ]
Closer than you think (4.20 / 5) (#20)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:28:21 PM EST

You can find more examples of advertorials here, here, here, here, here, and here. I wonder if I even got them all.

Rusty started it all started with this story, the whole thing was polled here with results that still astound me and was opened by none other than rusty with this.

The author of the story has valid points and I agree wholeheartedly, but something about a pot and a kettle comes to my mind...

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell

Feh (none / 0) (#25)
by rusty on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:14:08 AM EST

It's a stretch (a huge stretch), but you could say there's a relation between advertorial and the digital id section. Not much of one, but I'm willing to say ok, whatever.

Regardless, if you think that means this is pot and kettle, you're missing more of the point than you're getting.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Huge stretch? (none / 0) (#35)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:32:20 AM EST

Huge stretch? Could you elaborate on that since I feel the relation is much closer.

So what the community had to vote on the articles. 90+ percent of readers of k5 didn't realize the full ramifications of advertorials, just like 90+% of readers of Salon or National Geographic. Our editors (the registered members who vote on stories) face the same difficult decision of balancing the need the survive with editorial integrity. Some are willing to sell their souls to the highest bidder, some would prefer to have a spine and find a job elsewhere.

So what Digital ID wasn't selling a concrete product. Focus On...Digital ID was an ad, nothing more, nothing less. They tried to sell us an intangible product.

So what the Digital ID section was marked differently. If you stumble upon the site, you would not know that they are sponsored stories unless you read previous stories in the section.

Other than that, I don't see any differences. Even if you think the above issues make for a huge stretch, the fact remains that Digital ID -section compromised the editorial freedom of k5 just like advertorials do on real news sites.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell

[ Parent ]
Okay (none / 0) (#36)
by rusty on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:37:15 AM EST

I said okay. I conceded already. I'm glad you care so much, really, but okay. You're totally right and stuff.

You're still missing the point of the article.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Spell it out for the morons in the crowd, please.. (none / 0) (#45)
by Skwirl on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 06:50:32 AM EST

I dunno about MotorMachineMadness, but I read just enough of the article for it to trigger my bullshit meter and then I ran a find text on the comments so I could rate up the first person who mentioned the Digital ID hypocrisy.

So, for the sake of those of us who are too lazy to wade through the biting, biting satire of Rusty Foster, what were you getting at?

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]

I don't have to write it again, do I? (none / 0) (#50)
by rusty on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 08:05:49 AM EST

I already wrote down what I was getting at. It's in the text at the top of the page. It will be conveniently stored there for whenever you'd like to read it. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
That's okay (none / 0) (#68)
by Skwirl on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 07:04:21 PM EST

I found the Cliff's Notes.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
Subjective (none / 0) (#53)
by ennui on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 09:30:31 AM EST

Just because the rules were different, the scale was different, and nobody had heard of pingID or whatever the stuff was that was covered in the digital ID articles doesn't make it that much a stretch. It's the same sort of plugging, subject to the same sort of abuses.

It also rings hollow reading a spoof of an advertorial/product placemented-article from somebody who tried the same sort of thing unsuccessfully. If somebody had presented a similar offer to you, and sugar-coated and obfuscated it enough that you didn't knee-jerk at it, and then you "asked the k5 community" with a poll that would get a lickspittle majority of yesses and "whatever it takes to keep the site running" and "rusty deserves it" comments, I'd wager within minutes the moderation queue would contain "Benefits of Andro-Max Brand Herbal V*igra," "Best Cruises For Under $500," and "Cleaning Your Credit: How Ultrasave Can Consolidate Your High-Interest Credit Card Bills into One Low Monthly Payment"

kirby loves you
[ Parent ]

oh you brute! you boorish oaf! (none / 0) (#26)
by turmeric on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:18:26 AM EST

you are 100% right. on the other hand the community voted on that stuff. so you know what im saying. ???

[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#49)
by imrdkl on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 07:52:01 AM EST

That's the most attention anyone's paid to my stories in a long time. I still will gladly debate anyone about the value and timeliness of the section, regardless of whether it had some backing. I find your tone, in any case, droning and tiresome.

[ Parent ]
Heh indeed (none / 0) (#57)
by MotorMachineMercenary on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:09:32 PM EST

Since you are in the 'me' mode, my turn: I don't pay attention to your stories, I don't pay attention to anybody's stories. I don't care if it's you, rusty, turmeric, greenrd or GWB who writes the story; I pay attention to the content. Except for the Focus On...Digital ID, those I voted routinely down without reading them. And will any advertorial in the future.

From my POV I have no further insight to give to the droning and tiresome issue of advertorials. I hoped the issue died down with the k5 advertorial section, but this story just irked me too much with its hypocrisy for me to ignore.

I was rather surprised about how you feel about the tone in my comment. If I expressed what I really feel about this issue it wouldn't be very coherent nor printable. I was merely supplying links to k5 advertorials, and then referred to an old saying which is perfectly on topic and perfectly accurate. If that's droning and tiresome, so be it.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell

[ Parent ]
Hey, it paid some bills (none / 0) (#63)
by imrdkl on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:57:13 PM EST

So your a purist, ok. I can handle that. Publishing a website together is great, and I agree that content requirements should be stringent. Otoh, if you're really being critical about the content here, then there was nothing wrong at all with a bunch of the articles which wound up in that section. On the third hand, perhaps your purism is a bit overblown.

I note that you've posted a few stories yourself, which I do regard, but unless you've got something specifically against Digital Identity (as you seem to be from Finland, I'll not be surprised if you feel this way), but unless you do, I don't see why you have such a problem with this article, or that section. Give it a rest.

[ Parent ]

advertorials (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by trener on Thu Dec 05, 2002 at 10:51:05 PM EST

i read the salon.com advertorial. i honestly didn't mind it. salon.com is a daily stop for me, and i'd miss it if it were gone.

so, i say kudos to salon and sony for coming up with a way to kill a whole flock of birds with a single stone. salon's happy, because they got $$paid$$, sony's happy, because they got to pimp their digital camera, and the reader is happy, because at least it's not a fucking pop-up banner.

On the flip side; Ad's are getting better! (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by dagg on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:09:18 AM EST

Online advertising has certainly evolved through the years. Banner ads, skyscraper ads, popups, popunders, ads in the middle of the articles, text ad's, and now "advertorial"s (in roughly that order). The advertisers are doing whatever they have to do to get people's attention. As long as the advertisement doesn't jump out of the way when I try to close it, I could care less. It's a balance between getting people's attention and not pissing them off.
Find Yer Sex Gateway
That's yesterday's technology. (none / 0) (#24)
by tkatchev on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:12:15 AM EST

The top of the line nowadays are Flash ads that completely mimic an analagous TV commercial.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

No, stop, don't... (none / 0) (#51)
by QuickFox on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 08:17:38 AM EST

As long as the advertisement doesn't jump out of the way when I try to close it,

Damn. Now you've done it. You've given them yet another idea.

Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach him how to fish, and though he'll eat for a lifetime, he'll call you a miser for not giving him your fi
[ Parent ]

Too late... (2.00 / 1) (#71)
by qbwiz on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 04:41:26 PM EST

I've already seen pop-ups like this.  They're little flash things that don't close when you close on the normal window close button.  First, you have to click on a close button in he ad, then they show some animation, and then you can close them.
They're definitely the worst ads ever.

[ Parent ]
ad age (2.50 / 2) (#27)
by turmeric on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:36:36 AM EST

you didnt link to ad age. you should really see the new fall fashions,they are to die for, ad age has a really great spread of them. im always talking with my coworkers about the latest article in ad age. it keeps me on the edge of things. and in this age, thats something i can count on. after all, who has time to cook anymore?

god damn man this is the best article in a long damn time.

Yay (none / 0) (#28)
by rusty on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 01:08:53 AM EST

I impressed turmeric!

Wait, I'm not sure that's a good thing...

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

THANK HEAVENS!!! (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by opendna on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:19:18 AM EST

Let me get this straight:

Salon, et al got a butt load of money by Sony to run content that pitched the use of technology that Sony sells. Good. I don't even care if there's a disclaimer on it!

It's better than a banner. It's MUCH better than a pop-up, pop-under, etc. There's no doubt in my mind that it's better than one of those animated annoyances that bounce about the screen and keep me from going about my business.

Here's a next step for the Salon, et al crew though: Write the content yourselves and put product placement out to bid eBay style.

Be still my heart! (none / 0) (#31)
by rusty on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:37:21 AM EST

Careful. Someone from the New York Times might be reading. They'll get all fluttery if they hear you talking like that, and we'll have to break out the smelling salts! :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
I skipped this for a different reason (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by labradore on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:50:50 AM EST

I noticed this article at least a few days ago while browsing Salon. I had read the title and opened it in a background tab while I read some other things. When I got around to reading almost the first paragraph, I realized that this was a fluff article about a couple of yuppies, probably newly wealthy from y2k and dot-com related work, who could afford to dump their jobs and galavant around the world, visiting interesting places. They chose ecologically significant destinations. Who cares? I didn't finish reading it, which is a rare behavior for me.

I think it was at least a little slimey of Salon to publish that page looking 98% like a real article--especially since I subscribe to Salon and my user preference for that site is to have ads turned off. However, I know that Salon is doing everything they can to stay solvent. I don't mind this kind of ad placement all that much in light of the fact that it was easily identifiable as junk. The real damage that it did was to my opinion of their content. I didn't notice that it was an ad; I just imagined that the editors somehow let this crap slip in--maybe they were high on something. I'm not really sure how unhappy I'd be if I had found the article to be interesting. I hope they keep selling these kind of ad spots. I want to see if I can get suckered in.

I suppose my attitude is probably not the most popular one among Salon readers and subscribers. Usually, I strongly disagree with the political views of the Salon columnists and by extention, its editors. Because I disagree, when I read Salon, I'm already generally on watch for biases and lapses of (or rather chronic deficiencies of) judgement and crap in general. Not only was the article vacuous, but unlike other Salon pieces, it was obviously worth discarding altogether. I wonder if the sad souls who feel at home in the politics of Salon feel differently about finding this kind of sludge in their harbor. It will be interesting to watch this play out.

missing the obvious (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by jvcoleman on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 04:55:22 AM EST

This same thing has been happening with regard to political bias and canvassing since the beginning of newspapers. Every time there is a political campaign a great effort is made to court the endorsement of the local media barons. In turn, the papers and TV stations they own become whores for political campaign dollars.

The entire US media is one giant infomercial for its foreign policy. Everything from 60 Minutes to Hannity and his gang of fascist freaks. So they will be slipping some product plugs in there too, so what. Open up a recent copy of TIME and you'll see what looks to be mellifluous stories about the miraculous wonders of Allegra when in reality they are the twisted words of cold-hearted marketing reps. Magazines and shows might as well come right out and say they are plugging someone's products. It's not like people are going to be shocked. People already know their votes are manipulated so why not their spending patterns too. Let Madison Ave do the driving from now on.

Slanted journalism should be counted as political advertising, regulated as such, and assigned a real dollar value whenever candidates file with the FEC. How much was it worth to George Bush and Karl Rove to have the New York Times cower in the shadows for the last 20 months? Whenever online content overtakes newspapers and TV, forums, chat rooms, online games, they will be flooded with spammers of every kind. Every word you read will have been customized and formulated to manipulate you. That's what smart tags in windows xp are for.

If there's anyone left that thinks we have an objective media that works for the people, they can go ahead and shut up now.

One little problem (none / 0) (#39)
by pyramid termite on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:45:33 AM EST

If there's anyone left that thinks we have an objective media that works for the people, they can go ahead and shut up now.

Good luck getting the people to agree on what an objective media that works for them is.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
media viewpoint reflects advertisers' viewpoints (none / 0) (#56)
by cryon on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 11:49:18 AM EST

I think it used to be that newspapers sold copies and made money from the copies sold, but now advertising pushes everything. The advertisers are interested in stablility, safety from seizure of assets by the govt/mob, and cheap labor.

This is why when someone calls you a "commie", it's an insult. In the earlier part of this century, the wealthy advertisers did not want to lose their assets, and so the media, taking their cues from the hands that feed them, demonized socialism.

Also, the political correctness movement is a movement that favors inclusion of excluded minorities into the workplace, thus increasing the supply of labor for advertising, and keeping wages lower. So therefore anyone who did not favor inclusion was demonized.

And now the demonization of anti-immigration types has begun because immigration is a great source of cheap labor.

In part, this sort of media bias has been good for the country, in that we are so stable that we have attracted a lot of capital investment.

Let the ad hom attacks begin...

[ Parent ]

The Failure of Socialism in America (none / 0) (#58)
by forii on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 12:51:32 PM EST

This is why when someone calls you a "commie", it's an insult. In the earlier part of this century, the wealthy advertisers did not want to lose their assets, and so the media, taking their cues from the hands that feed them, demonized socialism.

Of course, it could be a result of the United States's electoral system, which encourages the formation of only two strong parties, or a result of the fact that American culture is different from the European countries where Socialism/Communism had more support.

But you prefer to blame it all on advertisers. Heh...
Proud member of the ACLU, the NRA, and the EFF.
[ Parent ]

Ethical ? (5.00 / 5) (#38)
by CaptainZapp on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:42:18 AM EST

Hell yes. In my opinion, of course it is.

Look, the article is clearly marked as a sponsored piece.

This is clearly different the sneaking "sponsored" content into an apparently editorial piece or outright writing under the premises of a newspaper article while getting payed by an advertiser (btw: this practice is very common with technical periodicals).

BTW: I (overall) like Salon and bought a two year subscription. I rather see them making money with Advertorials (as long they are clearly indicated) then going under while riding the high horse.

An answer to intrusive ads? (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by I am Jack's username on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:48:48 AM EST

Online ads too SAVE NOW AT EGGHEAD.COM! intrusive.

Did anyone think there are things media corporations wouldn't do for more money? I cancelled my National geographic subscription because of all their Greenwashing ads - I now have to satisfy my map addiction in other ways.
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell

I have seen the LIGHT! (none / 0) (#41)
by codespace on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 05:57:24 AM EST

rusty, thank you. A million times thank you. You have inspired me to follow in the footsteps of those who have developed The Proxomitron, Ad-Aware, and Popup Killer.

I shall create the ultimate, the stupendous, the really pretty amazingly hip: ABILITY TO CHOOSE WHAT I READ!

Back to reality.

Great article, but I think people should stop screaming at every piece of spam and advertising, and simply make the concious (not concerted, merely concious) effort to ignore it. It may not be a necessary evil, but it's one we'll spend more energy avoiding than ignoring.

today on how it's made: kitchen knives, mannequins, socks and hypodermic needles.

Salon's coverage and situation compared to NYT (5.00 / 3) (#42)
by Will Sargent on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 06:00:12 AM EST

Salon, in order:

Has pictures of nekkid women.
Has their own personals service (well, a syndicated one).
Has a subscription service.
Advertising all over the place.

They even sell artwork, t-shirts, mugs, and anything else they can think of.

I'm all in favour of selling anything they damn well please as long as I know they're not lying to me.  This Sony content is obviously the text equivalent of an infomercial.  I don't have a problem with it, and I didn't even know it was there; I gave them the money I could easily spare and I don't see adverts any more.

Is it up to NY Times standards?  Well, apparently not.  But so what?  There are some things which the Paper of Records doesn't look quite as pristine on, notably their work on Wen Ho Lee, the utterly innocent man who they tried to make look like a spy.  Or the coverage of Dark Alliance that the NY Times had and flubbed, then tried to play down once Gary Webb exposed the story.   And I'm sure there's more than enough cypherpunks who complain about Kevin Mitnick's treatment.  

It's not like NYT is lacking in resources relative to Salon.  Yet Salon has covered all of these stories, and poked holes in stories which the NYT, with all their resources, didn't or wouldn't.  I'll keep reading them until they compromise their journalistic integrity, and not until then.
I'm pickle. I'm stealing your pregnant.

Great, I've been trolled. (none / 0) (#69)
by Will Sargent on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 12:28:10 AM EST

Boy, is my face red.  I should have followed the links.

That'll teach me to think there's a difference between rusty and suck.com.  
I'm pickle. I'm stealing your pregnant.
[ Parent ]

Rarely will you find... (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by Gromit on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 07:15:02 AM EST

...someone more ready to slam this sort of behavior than me. But, well, "feature by Sony" is on the page itself in two places and in the title of the page (e.g., typically caption of the browser window) as well. I should be able to just about grasp that Sony had something to do with the feature. Whereas your local paper typically runs these in a slightly heavy black box with the word "Advertisement" in small print below (or above, or both).

Maybe one could nitpick the fact that the "feature by Sony" bits are in other boxes above and to the side, rather than within the same visual box as the feature itself, which might confuse the easily confused. But by-and-large, we as consumers need to be responsible for not being taken in.

So, ethical? Yeah, probably, just. Desireable in a publication? No, probably not, good on NYT. Would I do it if I were running a semi-successful site? No. One that was about to go under? Don't ask me hard questions... ;-)

"The noble art of losing face will one day save the human race." - Hans Blix

Um... (3.25 / 4) (#52)
by Silent Chris on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 08:50:20 AM EST

How did this make front page?  There are advertorials.  There have been advertorials for many, many years.  

Let me postulate a few reasons why this story made the front page:

  1. There were many referenced links.  Links, as we know, earn extra points in the vote, especially if they're "witty" (references to humor or a highbrow version of pop culture often suffice).  Never mind the fact that the "let's reference consumer products as a means to make fun of advertising" schtick has been done in editorials many, many times before.
  2. It was Rusty's article.  Anything Rusty writes gets extra votes.
  3. The story is considered "original", because it has nothing to do with politics, Palestinians, or the non-profit group Rusty has been trying to create (which the focus on has apparently allowed the maintenance of the K5 equipment to languish -- I would've appreciated my bit of the thousands going towards some redundant servers).

w00T! (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by iGrrrl on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 09:47:39 AM EST

I know of a small town paper that essentially takes press releases and prints them nearly verbatim. This is a common practice, and here is a similarity here. Although the editors of the paper determine whether the story will run, they're often quite glad to have most of their work done for them. As editors must, for it is in their blood, they make some editorial changes. On the whole, though, if the press release is written as reportage rather than sales copy, it'll run nearly as-is.

I don't know whether the Salon article is much different. It may be "better" in that a label indicated it was sponsored, where often in papers press releases run with no by-line. In addition, in print magazines it is very common to approach advertisers with a "theme" issue. For example, they get cruise lines to buy space next to articles on cruising in the Caribbean, and resorts to place ads next to articles on hotels on the islands. I find that less honest, in some ways, than the labeled Sony piece.

That said, kudos to Rusty taking sly humor over the top, and over the tops of some reader's heads.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

Indeed (none / 0) (#61)
by rebrane on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:00:05 PM EST

I agree.. and rusty, I suspect more readers "get it" than the comments indicate. Once I understood your angle I didn't feel any need to post; but obviously those who (sometimes violently) misunderstand it do. :)

[ Parent ]
Naturally (none / 0) (#62)
by rusty on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 03:30:16 PM EST

I should have said "of those who commented," of course. It was late, my brain wasn't working right. Assuming it ever does.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
I don't think its just small town papers (none / 0) (#70)
by wumpus on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 01:08:19 PM EST

I'm sure that any PR agency worth its fee can generate "press releases" that will pass editorial approval. It may not be as blatantly obvious, and the PR type probably has to work harder making irresistible phrases, but a reporter or columnist who is running close to a deadline (or just plain lazy) will become awfully interested in such.

I'm willing to be that during Microsofts rise, they had at least one PR flak for each Ziff Davis writer. This probably paid off better than any advertising budget ever could.


[ Parent ]

I actually clicked through it (5.00 / 2) (#55)
by fencepost on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 11:21:04 AM EST

I ignored it for a few days, but once the brouhaha wandered through, skimmed the "article" (not really of interest) and followed a couple of the links back to Sony's site. I did this to see what all the fuss was about and to improve Salon's (advertising rates|per-clickthrough payments). On the other hand, I do have their advertising banners turned off since I find those more annoying.

I don't really mind this for a few reasons:

  • Salon has it clearly marked, at least if you have any modicum of judgement.
  • It's an insignificant amount of space.
  • It's not in their plain-text or PDF versions (available to subscribers).
  • It's not a damn moving monkey, and it doesn't look like an error message.
  • I actually use a Sony Clie and notebook, and it provided quick links to take a look at what was new in those product lines.

"I can't believe I'm giving someone enema advice." -karlj000
So? (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by leviramsey on Fri Dec 06, 2002 at 02:30:39 PM EST

I'm not sure I see where this crosses any lines. As long as it's clearly marked as a paid story, I don't see any problem.

Of course, K5 has accepted paid stories (remember Digital Identity, anyone?), as has Slashdot (I even recall a help wanted ad for game developers on the front page a few months ago).

salon shares (2.00 / 1) (#72)
by tweetsygalore on Sat Dec 07, 2002 at 09:33:34 PM EST

are trading for this little: http://www.otcbb.com/asp/quotes.asp?Quotes=salnc . buying a few of their shares, i think, would be worth being able to be heard directly BY their powers that be and others who get to read the proxy vote comments and/or attend their shareholders' meeting. best, C
After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realised that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary. But it has proven unable to prevent itself from repeating the error when the next crisis comes along. --- Justice William Brennan
What's up with the links? (2.00 / 2) (#73)
by ryochiji on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:12:09 AM EST

I don't know if it was intentional, but the story contains a whole slew of links to specific trademarked products and brands (including Green Moutain Columbian, The Ring, Mag-Lite, Eggo, RubberMaid, Chevy Avalanche, Shimano, and others) that have no relevance to the story at all.  If that's not advertising I don't know what is.  In fact, it's worse than product placements on TV shows (at least the people don't suddenly say stuff like "I'm waffling like an Eggo!").

Rusty, were you just trying to make a point?  Or do you always throw in random references to products for the fun(?) of it?

IlohaMail: Webmail that works.

No kidding! (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by andfarm on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 12:22:55 AM EST

That's entirely intentional. Think about the topic for a minute, then think about these product references, then ask yourself this question again.

[ Parent ]
The real question is.... (2.00 / 1) (#75)
by dani14 on Mon Dec 09, 2002 at 02:57:21 PM EST

Is K5 getting any kickback for product placement?


"The samaritans parable obviously missed the bit where jizzbug ... kicked the crap out of the guy "just to see if he could do it, you know, to test if the law was perfect and all"." -- Craevenwulfe
Parent ]
NYT Integrity (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by sawilson on Tue Dec 10, 2002 at 08:17:59 PM EST

Even though they seem to have something approximating integrity on this front, I have no respect for a company that will use the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD)to use the right of eminent domain to steal land from other people instead of just purchasing it legally to build their fucking tower.

Sig:(This is your diatribe full of your titles
and lame beliefs and causes so men are impressed
with you and women want to bear your childr
Salon grasps at "advertorial" straws, New York Times gets the vapors | 79 comments (57 topical, 22 editorial, 0 hidden)
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