Dissent Of The Day

A reader tires of our comprehensive coverage of “enhanced advertorial techniques”:

I don’t usually write, but your rants on ad-sponsored content are REALLY getting tired (and the latest dig at The Atlantic in an unrelated article dealing with telepresence robots was a little childish). Please stop bashing other companies that aren’t doing as well as you are and that are forced to resort to advertising to make money.  There are great people at The Atlantic and David Bradley and Co. are doing their best to stay in business and generate the same excellent content provided by Fallows, Goldblog, and others.  Traditional ads don’t generate sufficient revenue for those companies.  What’s more, I don’t particularly care if I’m being marketed to and manipulated, because I’m getting their service for FREE.

All else equal, I’d gladly take The Atlantic‘s model, where I have to deal with ads, manipulative or otherwise, than yours, where I have to pay.

Of course, because I enjoy your blog so much, all else isn’t equal here, but the point stands that you’re doing well in your new system (at least from my perspective) because of you and your team and in SPITE of your model, not the other way around.

You’ve done remarkably well for yourself, which is the primary reason your model is working. Good for you, and I of course remain a devoted Dishhead. That said, I have been meaning to pay for your service since your model went pay-for, but this “holier-than-thou” attitude makes me feel like I’ll just be feeding this ego/arrogance and perpetuating this non-stop torrent of bitterness. The whole thing seems a little transparent and self-serving, and I think you’re better than this.

Bitter?

My one and only concern is that in an era when advertisers have publishers by the short and curlies, that we do not give away the village in order to keep it. It’s the crafty fusion of advertising and editorial content that troubles me – and that risks the integrity of the core content. If we really are going to merge advertizing and journalism in the coming years, as seems an increasingly popular idea, I think it’s worth resisting and asking some core questions. Not out of smugness. It’s far too soon to declare our venture as a success. But because there are some principles at stake here, important ethical ones, and they are not being aired in the rest of the media – because no one wants to undermine their future commercial viability.

So I’m doing what only a truly independent blog can: raising an issue the MSM cannot or won’t. And it isn’t childish to note a simple example of how the decline of trust between publisher and reader caused by sponsored content can affect an otherwise good piece. If your magazine is partly under-written by IBM and your cover-story is about IBM’s brilliant new computer, you are doing the writers and editors a disservice by the appearance of a conflict of interest.