Getting it right: Rafat does the right thing, Steve Hall says he will

The topic of the moment in the blogosphere is ethics and advertising. As many of you know I’ve taken a hard line against bloggers taking money from companies to advertise their products. It’s clearly wrong, and it clearly confuses the user.

Print mediathe closest analog to blogshas already resolved these issues. You only need to look to their standards to see what we as bloggers should do. We are not the first people to face these issues.

Now, I wanted to point out again that Rafat Ali corrected the confusion about the advertisements on his blog that were in “blog post” format. He did this immediately after I pointed it out to him, and the reason he did it was simply because he didn’t have the technical resources to place the advertisement any other way. Turth be told, I expected nothing less from Rafat. We worked together at Silicon Alley Reporter I came to admire his talents, ethics and hard work. He’s a man of high standards and significant talent.

Today I’m happy to say that when I spoke to Steve Hall at the AdTech conference on Monday he told me that I was right about his Adverposts on AdRants. He told me he would be changing the format of his advertisements in blog format shortly to make it clear that they were ads (right now the posts look identical to his normal posts except for a tiny “Adverpost” link at the bottom). Steve told me he is going to put them in a separate box, in a different font and with a different background color. Way to go Steve!!! This is exactly what you need to do! Look for it in their redesign which is coming shortly.

Steve still has one problem left: he’s writing the copy for the advertisers! While I think it is great that advertisers are doing text-based ads, and adopting the blog post style for their ads, writers should not write ads for their advertisers.

If John Markoff at the New York Times wrote the advertising copy for Microsoft would you trust him when he wrote about Microsoft?

If Dan Rather wrote the advertisement for Honda would you trust him when he reported on the automotive industry?

Exactly.

That is why the magazine, newspaper and TV industries forbid this kind of behavior by journalists.

There are some exceptions to this rule, like if you did a contest giving something to the readers, or if you hosted a conference and thanked the sponsors. Those are understandable times for an editorial person to get involved in advertising, but that is all I can think of in terms of exceptions at this point. Perhaps there are some others.

Steve, why not just hire one of the talented marketing people out there to write the ad copy for your posts (maybe Steve Rubel)? Problem solved!

Kudos to Rafat and Steve for not only engaging the discourse around ethics, but for taking a stand on the issue.

It’s not always easy to take the high road, I understand that. I was a one-man show for the first couple of issues of Silicon Alley Reporter and I had to deal with advertisers and editorial (I sold the ads for the first couple of issues like you guys do for your blogs currently!). However, if you want to grow your brands to any level of significance there is no other option then the high road.

All the best, Jason

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