Editorial Text Link Ads Raise Ethical Debate
While making our daily visit to the New York Post, we saw a story announcing the Magazine Publishers of America launch of a $40 million, three year campaign to promote the magazine medium. The fact that this news is four months old is irrelevant, though comical in its own right. What is relevant is the New York Post's adoption of Vibrant Media's IntelliTXT service which links words in article to ads. Rolling the mouse over the word pops up a window with a Google-like text ad which can be clicked on.
Forbes used Vibrant Media's product for a while but editors and others rebelled against it. The line of thinking is edit should be edit and ads should be ads and never shall the two intertwine. While we've had advertorials and other forms of paid edit for years, this move, combined with the intense proliferation of advertising in general have caused some to question the ethics of this form of advertising. One could debate these ads devalue the editorial content. Alternatively, one could argue they are simply non-intrusive, context-relevant ads readers can choose to view or not. That choice is not a possibility with many other forms on online and offline advertising. The questions as to which method of advertising is better will not be answered by advertising pundits but my the market. Just as pop up blockers rose to fend off aggravating popups, so might a technology that blocks or hides editorially linked text ads. The fact that ads are linked from within an article does not necessarily devalue the content of the article itself. The links are easy to ignore and don't alter the content. Sure, they are just another thing to process while reading but they are far easier to ignore than all over forms on online advertising. Given the choice between an Internet full of flashing graphic ads or only passive text ad links, which would you choose? Let us know.