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Thursday, July 08, 2010



Update: And.. just this morning ScienceBlogs has expelled PepsiCo:


You manage to misunderstand almost everything about advertising and sponsorship. New media (sic) is cheaper than old media (sic), and has allowed itself to get too close to advertising. At the same time, it is easier to reject advertising just because of that cheapness. However, to think that advertising or sponsorship infects or affects the vehicle it supports is to give the sort of credibility to advertising that would make its owners grin from ear to ear. Content is king. Keep it separate from the stuff that pays for it, take the money and smile politely. Worry about something serious. Scientists (and people who write things like this: Scientists tend not to like having their credibility put into question by virtue of unasked-for association with corporate interests.) who worry about nasty company X or brand Y getting too close are just a bunch of precious tarts. Get back to the lab and invent something, ffs. I mean, it's not as if they are gaining financially from the association, they are just rejecting a source of money that keeps their platform intact. Science Blogs must feel even more self-important now that they have 'expelled' Pepsi. One question, and please answer honestly: who loses?


I find the suggestion that advertising and sponsorship have no effect on what they support to be.. well.. it made me giggle.


give an example of where it has happened with auditable figures


A quick (as in, I spent 20 seconds) Google search led to this 2008 literature review of advertiser influence on news media -

Whether it's good scholarship or not I don't have time to dig into, but it does cite, among other things, a 92 study in which 1/3 of editors surveyed admitted that advertising influences news content. If editors themselves admit it, why argue with them?

There's also the much-discussed struggle that Ms. Magazine went through in sorting out whether to accept advertising.

Then there are the constant dilemmas medical researchers and medical journals face regarding drug company sponsorship.

It would be nice to live in a world where money (or the prospect of money, or the prospect of losing money) had no sway over anyone. It's a lovely and optimistic view of human nature and I wish it were so. Alas, this is not that world.


One editor from The Washington Post is quoted as saying, "They think because they buy thousands of dollars worth of advertising it is their section and they can tell us what we should put in it."
Given these findings, it may be that the more money an advertiser spends with an organization, the more influence that advertiser has over editorial content.


Given these findings, it may be that publications and broadcasts that specialize in certain topic areas or focus on specific industries may be more susceptible to advertiser influence ....

Hardly conclusive, is it? It may be? And your study sees 2/3 of editors admitting that advertising does not influence news content. If editors themselves admit it, why argue with them?

My point of view is based on 15 years' as a journalist, admittedly not in the heady world of the US media. My backwater used to be known as Fleet Street. In my world, any suggestion that we should modify or not run an item because of advertiser pressure would and was given the treatment it deserved - and this is in the context of an advertising sales executive worrying about his/her second bite at the cake, never an overt approach by an advertiser, by the way.

And thanks for the lesson in what is and what is not reality. Money does indeed make the world go round. But there are fewer monsters hiding under my bed than I suspect are under yours.

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