Advertising, ethics and editorial freedom

In a recent blog post, Roopinder Tara included this throw-away comment:

Pure bloggers don’t do advertising, so no worry about advertising pressure — the secret and unstated fear of us all in the trade press.

I respect Roopinder, but this kind of “pure blogger” label irritates me. I have an ad on my blog for geeky T-shirts, so I’m an impure blogger? Somebody please explain the reasoning behind that distinction, because I don’t understand it. Even if I accepted (say) Autodesk advertising, the idea that it would have any influence on what I choose to write is ridiculous. Yet I see even more extreme viewpoints presented by some bloggers as the absolute truth. For example, how about this from Matt Lombard?

Advertising a product means that you are beholden to that company for cash or other rewards – you have in essence sold your right of free expression about that product. This is why most ‘professional’ journalists that work for ads don’t have much of value to say, they are whores to corporations.

So, if you accept advertising, or you write for somebody who does, you can’t possibly write impartially? Rubbish! Not just rubbish, but downright insulting rubbish. Maybe Matt would find it hard to remain impartial for fear of losing some pocket money, but I don’t. When I’m writing, advertising never even enters my head. Matt, please stop projecting, it’s not a good look.

Back to Roopinder Tara’s comments about advertising pressure in the trade press. As a writer, all I can say is, what pressure? For a dozen years, I’ve been writing a Cadalyst column that has been known to contain uncomplimentary comments about Autodesk (a major advertiser) and its products. I have never been asked to remove or even slightly tone down any such comments. Not once. I’ve somehow survived for about a hundred and fifty articles while writing this stuff under multiple Publishers, multiple Editors-In-Chief and multiple Managing Editors. In all that time I’ve not heard a single peep from anybody. No columns have been pulled, no comments have been censored, no requests have been made for me to state something in a milder way, nothing. Maybe I’m just lucky?

To be fair, there may possibly be advertising pressure being applied and resisted at higher levels that I know nothing about. Maybe that’s the point. If I, the writer, know nothing about any such pressure, then in the written word where it actually matters that pressure simply doesn’t exist.

19 comments to Advertising, ethics and editorial freedom

  • By “pure blogger” I mean a blogger who is not also traditional press. Who’s projecting now?

    I stand by my comments about advertising biasing your point of view. If they aren’t true, then why do you have advertising at all?

    People distrust or at least are cynical about things written by people who are paid by advertisement, period. My statements aren’t extreme, just common sense.

  • I have started a blog, and I have been writing for AUGI for some time. I have advertisements on my blog. Many bloggers, generally speaking, have adds from an add service like Adsence and the like. Most of the adds are chosen by the blogger. These types of bloggers can’t be biased because they don’t know what will be advertised on their site. I have advertising on my blog to try and recoup some of my time. If we are to accept Mr. Lombard’s comments on this article, then we shouldn’t trust anything anyone tells us if they are paid. We can only trust amateur writers that have a day job. Mr. Lombard, you get paid to write, maybe not to blog, but you are an author. Your blog helps you sell your Solidworks books, so, does that mean we can’t trust what you say about Solidworks?

  • Matt Lombard: “I stand by my comments about advertising biasing your point of view. If they aren’t true, then why do you have advertising at all?”

    Huh? Now you’re not making any kind of sense at all, common or otherwise. My choice to have advertising or not is not related in any way to any bias of any description.

    You just made an assertion like, “My statement about frogs being green must be true, otherwise why wouldn’t elks be able to fly?” One or both clauses may possibly be true, but there is no relationship between them.

    Your statement (on your own blog, the one with ads for your books) that ads on a blog are cheesy is something I can understand. That’s just a matter of opinion. Your statement that they don’t make enough money to be worthwhile may well be completely correct, I’m in the process of finding that out for myself. Your statement that they must introduce editorial bias is just plain garbage. I know from personal experience that you’re 100% wrong.

    I stand by my description of those comments as extreme. Extreme, nonsensical, hypocritical, ridiculous; I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • Matt Lombard: “By “pure blogger” I mean a blogger who is not also traditional press. Who’s projecting now?”

    At no stage did I refer to any description by you of what a “pure” blogger is. Your description is perfectly acceptable to me, Roopinder’s connection with being free of advertising is not. No projection involved.

  • Mike Perry

    Hi Steve

    Up until today I had refrained myself from commenting on this total nonsense topic going on in the CAD blogsphere.

    With the following I mean no disrespect to Roopinder Tara or Matt Lombard or anyone else that buys into such total misconceived rubbish.

    * Fact, nearly all bloggers are not official press / journalists.
    * Fact, official press / journalists feel very! threatened by bloggers (for a number of silly and stupid reasons).
    * Fact, many official press / journalists are becoming bloggers, or at least embracing modern technology into their working lives. The ones that are not, will end up going the way of the dodo.
    * Fact, true so called “A-List” bloggers (gurus) fully embrace online advertising, have a very! deep understanding of how the advertising online world works, hence make very! good livings from being full-time bloggers.

    Below are a few “A-List” bloggers or blogs (successful web sites) or bloggers that have recently given-up their days jobs and now make a very! good living from blogging:

    http://www.doshdosh.com/
    http://www.johnchow.com/
    http://www.problogger.net/
    http://www.shoemoney.com/
    http://www.dumblittleman.com/
    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/
    http://zenhabits.net/
    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/
    http://www.engadget.com/
    http://www.readwriteweb.com/
    http://www.techcrunch.com/

    Matt, what about Google? They have built a very! successful and for the most part a trustworthy empire around search, but more importantly from online advertising, directly (and indirectly) tied to online search.

    Why does Microsoft want to buy Yahoo!? Online advertising dollars, pure and simple – gained via incorporating Yahoo! market share of online search.

    Take care, Mike

  • Have to agree with Steve. I have a long time as well written about bugs and the like in Autodesk products and the only thing I have got from Autodesk is being commended for it. I don’t hesitate to write what I want or think on my blog. Before I had some AdSense ads but have recently removed them just to remove some of the noise from the website and blog. It did in no way affect what I wrote though. Advertising have not biasing my point of view.

  • “Pure bloggers” was not a disparaging terms, just something to distinguish between bloggers who only blog — as opposed to bloggers who also are part of the “traditional press.”

    As far as being free of advertising pressure, I would have to venture that writers and columnists are shielded from that. In my experience, most of that pressure is felt at the publisher level. If the publisher is not doing their job properly of separating church and state, the pressure will be felt at the editor-in-chief level and maybe below that.

  • Roopinder, I have no problem with that definition of “pure bloggers”, only with your statement that they don’t do advertising.

  • Bill Fane

    In the past 22 years I have written 193 Learning Curve columns about AutoCAD for Cadalyst, along with several dozen reviews on a wide range of engineering software products for Cadalyst and several other magazines.

    I have NEVER been asked/told/ordered to tone down uncomplimentary remarks. I have made a few in my time, especially about AutoCAD in my Learning Curve columns.

    I did have one interesting incident many years ago with a product review that Cadalyst never printed. The product was so bad, and I said so, that Cadalyst called the company and told them to pull their ad and to remove the product from the market or they WOULD run my review. Cadalyst paid me for the review anyway.

    More recently, I was asked to do a product review for a major engineering magazine. When I was asked about payment, I was told that I would have “bragging rights” for having been published in their magazine. Unfortunately, that doesn’t pay the bills.

    The final agreement was that the advertizing agency for the software company would pay me, but they would not see my review until it was printed.

    See, just because advertizers are involved does not automatically mean that the system is corrupt.

  • That comment from Bill reminds me of one time when I did get censored in one of my Bug Watch columns, back in the days when it was part of the printed magazine. It was nothing to do with advertising, of course, but rather it was deemed inappropriate.

    I wrote an introductory paragraph that praised Bill and concluded with the remark that people often said I was pro-Fane, or at least that’s what I think they said. :)

  • When I read professional blogs, ones that actually make a living by advertising, I don’t think I have ever seen a single professional blog that had relevant (and original) end-user type material.

    Amateur blogs that advertise are cheezy, and yes I believe that, subtle as it may be, advertising can quench your fire.

    Promoting stuff that I have done on my blog doesn’t change what I write about it. First of all, I don’t go into heated criticisms of my own stuff. Does anyone else out there do this? No. On the other hand, I have done some training material for SolidProfessor, and since I have written it, I also promote SolidProfessor. Still, sometimes I feel that I cannot be critical of other offerings from SolidProfessor because of that affiliation.

    Why in hell would anyone advertise something on a site and then criticise it? If you are advertising to get money, this is counter productive. If you are advertising because you think doing makes your blog look more established, that’s kinda shallow, and I doubt you have much to say to begin with. Idealogically, it is inconsistent to advertise something, and then to rail against it. Even if the ads appear at random, ads are always geared toward the content, and if you pay any attention, you know what gets advertised on your site. You have the knowledge subconsciously, and the affect may be subtle or subliminal, but it is there.

    I have been involved in the sales side of CAD software, and I’ve seen that you cannot both promote something and be completely even handed about it. Einstein said you cannot simultaneously prepare for war and peace. People are partisan, they take sides. If you have an advertisement for VX on your site, anything you write about VX, I can only understand as a proponent’s point of view.

  • Mike Perry

    Hi Matt

    “When I read professional blogs, ones that actually make a living by advertising, I don’t think I have ever seen a single professional blog that had relevant (and original) end-user type material.”

    What professional blogs do you read?

    I only ask, as you must read some real rubbish to make such a comment (no disrespect to those bloggers, as I do not know the blogs that Matt is referring to with his throwaway statement).

    Try reading some of the “professional blogs” I linked to previous [http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com/2008/03/25/advertising-ethics-and-editorial-freedom/#comment-161] eg

    http://www.problogger.net/
    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/
    http://zenhabits.net/
    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/
    http://www.readwriteweb.com/

    Then tell me they do not have (contain) “relevant (and original) end-user type material”.

    Take care, Mike

  • Matt,

    Okay, reading your viewpoint… what you’re saying is that advertising has affected *your* comments in the past in some way.
    I don’t think that everyone automatically thinks precisely like you do, though.

    I don’t feel that advertisers would be paying for my opinion or protection, they’re just paying for access to my audience, so it shouldn’t have any bearing on what I write.

  • Matt Lombard: “Why in hell would anyone advertise something on a site and then criticise it?”

    Why not? This happens in the free press all the time. For example, my state’s main newspaper is frequently very critical of our local water company. The water company is a major advertiser. In fact, it seems the more critical the newspaper gets, the more advertising space the company buys to put its own point of view across.

    When I’m looking at a newspaper, magazine, news web site or blog, like most people I read the editorial content and ignore the ads. As long as it’s clear what is an ad and what is editorial, I never link the two. I don’t think many people assume that the editorial content is tainted. Of course, there are advertorials in some media, and I deplore those (particularly undeclared ones) as much as you do. But don’t confuse that with what happens in reputable media.

    In the traditional press, the writer should not know what ads are going to appear in the same publication, or on the same page. In my case, I have never known, been told, asked, or needed to know. I have never, ever been influenced by advertising in my editorial content.

    If you look back in time at some of my Cadalyst work, you will see Autodesk ads next to me stating that Autodesk’s custom interface is a disaster. You may have an ideological problem with that, but I don’t. I think it’s great! The reader is in no doubt about what’s coming from Autodesk’s point of view and what’s coming from mine. No sensible reader should expect the viewpoints to coincide. The readers can make up their own minds about what’s presented to them, and that’s how it should be.

    Now, in terms of a subtle influence, I absolutely feel that’s just you projecting. For me, there is no such influence, and I have a dozen years worth of impartial columns to back me up on that one. But let’s assume it’s true for some people. Why is it so for advertising, and not for other arrangements?

    Let’s say a writer benefits from a company’s generosity in terms of free blog hosting, free travel, free accommodation, corporate gifts, free software, and so on. Let’s say that writer benefits from that company’s software selling well because that will in turn improve the sales of that writer’s books. Unlike advertising, any influence that sort of thing may have has is not obvious to a reader, unless it is explicitly declared.

  • Wow, you’re really fishing in the dark for something to pin on me. Read the book first, then tell me I’m any kind of shill. SW Corp didn’t help write the book(s). I don’t get free stuff for writing. My blog os on my own domain. I do get free stuff for some of my other roles such as user group leader, but these roles are not tied to writing. Justifying myself on an autocad blog is pointless.

    Anyway, conflict of interest is easy enough to spot, and such an obvious trap for journalists of any kind that you constantly hear disclaimers on the news about who owns which reporting news agencies. Roopinder admits openly that advertising conflict of interest is the bane of journalists. Wishing that he hadn’t said the obvious doesn’t make what he said untrue.

    Did you ever notice that it’s only people who advertise on blogs that get upset about my comments about people who advertise on blogs? Other folks recognize that intuitively, and don’t need long arguments to prove it to themselves.

    Getting shredded on an autocad blog that I never visited until it started sending hits to my SolidWorks blog is just an example of the quasi-religious CAD-partisanship that drives me nuts.

    You went way out on a limb and criticized an autodesk offering? Wow, that’s risky, especially for someone whose stuff is surrounded by advertising. Read my blog, and ask if you read advertised stuff that is as frank about products. No, you don’t. Advertised material are mainly fluff, and don’t (can’t) tell it like it is. I think you are so wooed into a certain line of thinking that you really believe what you’re saying.

    People who write for advertising dollars are terrified of bloggers who write for a hobby, not because we are great writers, but because we have a wider range of available content. Roopinder lays it out for you. What reason does he have to fabricate anything about his point of view? He makes his living from advertising.

  • I don’t think I have ever seen an argument so poorly stated by somebody of apparently above-average intelligence. What a breathtaking combination of point-missing, hypocrisy, projection, false claims, irrelevant diversions and just plain nonsense! Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself, but I’m not even sure about that. Sigh. Let’s take it apart piece by piece, shall we?

    ML: “Wow, you’re really fishing in the dark for something to pin on me. Read the book first, then tell me I’m any kind of shill. SW Corp didn’t help write the book(s). I don’t get free stuff for writing. My blog os on my own domain. I do get free stuff for some of my other roles such as user group leader, but these roles are not tied to writing. Justifying myself on an autocad blog is pointless.”

    Missing the point: I was not accusing you of any of those things, just using hypotheticals to point out how ridiculous your “advertising must cause corruption” argument is. If it’s impossible for anyone with advertising on their site to be impartial, then it must also be impossible for anybody who obtains any benefit in any other way. It would appear that you know from personal experience that it’s perfectly possible to obtain benefits but still remain impartial, yet you persist with your extreme stance against advertising. What is so magical about the lure of advertising money as opposed to, say, a free trip?

    You’re either taking somebody’s shilling or you’re not. That either makes a difference to your editorial content or it doesn’t. According to you, it must. You obtain benefits from people you write about in various ways, so therefore according to your own arguments you can’t be trusted. Your argument doesn’t hold up; it is internally inconsistent.

    ML: “Anyway, conflict of interest is easy enough to spot, and such an obvious trap for journalists of any kind that you constantly hear disclaimers on the news about who owns which reporting news agencies. Roopinder admits openly that advertising conflict of interest is the bane of journalists. Wishing that he hadn’t said the obvious doesn’t make what he said untrue.”

    You give an example of news agencies who declare potential conflicts of interest. So these journalists do the right thing and…what? What’s your point? Are they good or bad for doing so?

    For anyone offering any kind of public opinion, paid or unpaid, of course there are potential conflict of interests traps everywhere. It doesn’t follow that everybody always falls into them. That’s your argument, and it’s nonsense.

    Also, I don’t see Roopinder saying what you’re claiming he’s saying. Maybe that’s what you would like him to say? Projection.

    ML: “Did you ever notice that it’s only people who advertise on blogs that get upset about my comments about people who advertise on blogs? Other folks recognize that intuitively, and don’t need long arguments to prove it to themselves.”

    You are somehow surprised that those people who you accuse of corruption take offense at it? I’m not sure what to say about that, it’s a pretty baffling argument. Anyway, who are these “other folks”? Perhaps they exist inside your head? You’re the one trying to prove something to yourself, not me. It looks like you’re at your old projecting tricks again. Also, I’m not sure if you’re implying that there’s something wrong with long arguments, but if you are just let me know. I’ll point you at a few on your own blog.

    ML: “Getting shredded on an autocad blog that I never visited until it started sending hits to my SolidWorks blog is just an example of the quasi-religious CAD-partisanship that drives me nuts.”

    Now you’re stepping into truly bizarre territory. I never visited your blog until recently, either. I don’t see that as particularly relevant. The fact that this is an AutoCAD blog and yours is a SolidWorks blog is totally irrelevant. Maybe it makes some kind of difference to you, but it makes none at all to me. I would have taken just as much offense at being accused of being some kind of corrupt whore if an AutoCAD blogger had written it, or if it had been written on a blog about elderberries. There’s no partisanship going on here except inside your own head. Projection, again.

    ML: “You went way out on a limb and criticized an autodesk offering?”

    Hang on, if that’s an attempt at sarcasm, it’s a failed one. You see, for sarcasm to work, you need to have something to be sarcastic about. This attempt falls flat, try again.

    ML: “Wow, that’s risky, especially for someone whose stuff is surrounded by advertising.”

    Hmm, you sure shot yourself in the foot there, didn’t you? I thought advertising on the same page as my writing made it impossible for me to write anything bad about the advertised product? Yet you accept that I did, in the very words of your lame sarcasm attempt? What’s it to be? Is your original argument wrong or do you deny the existence of the criticism in question? I can provide quotations and links if you take the denial route.

    ML: “Read my blog, and ask if you read advertised stuff that is as frank about products. No, you don’t.”

    I’ve read some of your blog. Maybe I have to go back a bit further to see the frank comments, but I haven’t seen anything particularly outstanding yet. I’ve certainly said things a lot more frank than that myself in various media, some private, some public, some with advertising, some without. It made no difference to me.

    ML: “Advertised material are mainly fluff, and don’t (can’t) tell it like it is.”

    That’s utter rubbish. I agree that many reviews aren’t in-depth or critical enough. I disagree that it has anything to do with advertising, and the idea that writers are somehow constrained by ads is ridiculous and insulting nonsense.

    ML: “I think you are so wooed into a certain line of thinking that you really believe what you’re saying.”

    Projection again (yawn). Hold on, folks, it gets even sillier:

    ML: “People who write for advertising dollars are terrified of bloggers who write for a hobby, not because we are great writers, but because we have a wider range of available content.”

    Ooh, I’m quaking in my boots! :D You have a wider range of available content because…? What? Because I’m somehow constrained by the ads? For the last time, that constraint exists only in your brain. I have nothing to fear from your paranoid delusions, and am in no way limited by them. They are your problem, not mine.

    ML: “Roopinder lays it out for you. What reason does he have to fabricate anything about his point of view? He makes his living from advertising.”

    You’re implying that Roopinder supports your extreme view. I see no evidence of this. He made reference to pressures brought by advertisers, and made it clear that in his experience this happens at levels that have no effect on the writers. This aligns with my own experience, and with Bill Fane’s: we have never been influenced by advertising pressure. My only dispute with what Roopinder has written is minor: his association of the term “pure blogger” with a lack of advertising. Mike Perry has provided plenty of examples that show that association to be incorrect. In summary, Roopinder appears a lot closer to my viewpoint than yours, and attempting to imply otherwise is disingenuous.

    Now, is that argument long enough for you?

  • I’d like to continue this with you, but I can see you learned from the Jon Banquer school, so it’s pointless. Best of luck to you.

  • Ah, the Jon Banquer line. There should be an equivalent to Godwin’s Law for discussions in any kind of CAD context that invoke the name of the Banquer.

    Anyway, the irony is magnificent, so thank you for the laugh! Best of luck to you, too.

  • P Berry

    Matt, the whole “Jon Banquer” assertion is a bit silly since your argument reflects his beliefs far more than Steve’s. Here’s an exerpt.

    http://blog.novedge.com/2007/07/an-interview-wi.html

    “In addition, some web boards are setup with the main focus on making money on advertisers. This type of web board doesn’t want posters offending those precious advertisers so when you tell the truth about a product your comments end up being censored or deleted. “

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

Polls

Autodesk orphans, how well were you looked after?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

How good is Autodesk's customer focus?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

How good is Autodesk at the Internet?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

What is your relationship to Autodesk?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Blog Statistics

  • Total Stats
    • 491 Posts
    • 551 Tags
    • 3,390 Comments
    • 1,087 Comment Posters
    • 69 Post Categories