Tag Archives: advertising

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Weekly listserv journal – Pop-up ads and ad revenue

There was a really interesting thread this week about pop-up blockers.  Basically the idea is that journalists should not go around praising and recommending pop-up blockers when so many news sites rely on them for advertising revenue.  I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but I’m not sure how big a problem this is.  People who want to block pop-ups are likely to be those who don’t click on them anyway.  So I doubt this will change click-through rates.  Some people questioned whether pop ups work at all, since X10 (they sold those mini-cameras) went out of business recently.

As part of a class project I’ve been reading the Online-News mailing list and responding to some of the issues and discussion brought up there.

Is Advertising Ethical?

A response to Taking Sides – Clashing Views in Mass Media and Society – Issue 7

Examining issue 7, Is Advertising Ethical, John Calfree argues advertising has important and far reaching benefits while Russ Baker counters that advertisers exert unwelcome pressure on media outlets.

Calfree’s argument, though broken into several sections, is basically that ads provide the audience with more information and that competition will force companies into disclosing accurate and beneficial information (usually in the form of less-bad advertising).  His first main example is fiber-most Amercians were unaware of the health benefits of fiber until Kellogg’s started advertising about it.  Soon many food brands were advertising about their own health benefits and consumers soon knew about a slew of nutrients to watch for.  The second major example he uses is the way in which cigarette companies highlighted problems with smoking in order to boost confidence in their brand.  This ended up scaring away customers.

Calfee keeps on referring to the benefits of unregulated market forces and how the market itself necessarily marches toward more and better information for the consumer.  Unfortunately, all he gives are examples of highly regulated forces.  Without the Surgeon General, the FDA and the FTC, those pro-fiber ads would have shared the air with the same flim-flam snake oil ads that filled magazines in the 1800s.  Market forces themselves only drive advertisers to make incredible claims; government oversight and outside reporting is what forces those claims to be scientific.  Calfree acknowledges this in a way when he says effective advertising uses information people have from outside the ad-so how is the ad itself then informing anyone?

Baker provides ample evidence for his thesis that advertisers try-often successfully-to influence the content of what is printed in publications.  The letter from Chrysler demanding editorial review of anything socially provocative was specially chilling.  The automaker, the fifth-largest advertiser in the country, was more or less demanding a seat on the editorial board.  And many magazines gave it to them.  The more successful a publication is and the more advertisers it has the less powerful one advertiser becomes, of course, but not all magazines have this luxury.  Baker says the biggest danger is self-censorship by editors and publishers who do not want to risk alienating the people who pay the bills.

Personally I agree with Calfree only to the point that things like price competition really do benefit the consumer.  Baker is right about advertisers wanting to influence editorial copy, and though I think many publications can stand to lose a few big sponsors over and important story, many won’t simply because they’re more concerned with higher profit rather than independence.  And special advertising sections and advertorials I find especially disturbing; when I was in Naples the print paper did a special advertising section on plastic surgery filled with wire stories about the benefits with no other point of view represented at all.  There are definite downsides and risks to plastic surgery, but you wouldn’t know it from the very hard-news looking section in the paper that day.

Online media versus traditional print media

A response to Mass Media and Society (James Curran and Michael Gurevitch), Chapter 13

In “Dead Trees to Live Wires,” Colin Sparks argues that the rise of online media poses commercial challenges to traditional print media.  Sparks does not say that print is dead or dying, or that publishing print material online is some kind of bonanza.  Instead he says there are four ways in which the internet has changed business for the news.

The first change is in terms of competition.  Newspapers historically do not have to compete with broadcast and magazine news because other media do not balance timeliness with depth the way daily papers do.  Online, however, everyone is publishing 24 hours a day, so the local paper now has to directly compete with the local ABC affiliate and whoever else.  Also, the net gets rid of geographical boundaries to competition and lowers the price of entry into publishing.  Second, it allows advertisers to potentially bypass newspapers and talk directly to consumers and allows people looking for in depth news to go straight to the sources.  Third, this will lead to division between large national/international news sites and small locally-concentrated news sites, with the local sites becoming much more involved in their communities.  Finally, newspapers may respond to these pressures by breaking down the barriers between news/editorial and advertising in order to compete.

Sparks is right on, although he fails to consider a few key facets in how online news is going to develop.  One is the cooperation of different media in online ventures.  Few newspaper sites now compete with all the local network sites-most have one or two networks affiliated with them and many run joint news sites.  This may have something to do with the concentration of ownership of different media even within the same city or it may just provide a competitive edge to both parties in a partnership.  Another conflict he doesn’t touch on enough is the struggle between journalists and business people within online departments.  Some papers have given it over to the business people, some have kept them separate, and others have let them duke it out.  At Naples, we barely had contact with the business side of our department except to talk about new technologies coming in.  All our people were journalists and the content and editorial decisions reflected that.  Still, I’ve talked to people at other publications who feel controlled either by advertising interests or crap handed down from the corporate office.  It seems, though, that individual editors and reporters can often make a big difference in how online news is produced and the corporate centralizing, advertising-based trend seems to be balanced by readers being more interested in real local news.