I can’t help but agree wholeheartedly with Andrew Sullivan on this:
As the Atlantic continues to whore itself out to corporate spokespeople-as-journalists, and as Buzzfeed develops an advertizing model designed entirely to trick readers into clicking on ads thinking their editorial copy, one dude has done the same thing for almost two decades, and has just a simple, clear advertisement on his site, obviously distinguished from his trademarked fusion of gossip, camp and Republican propaganda. His name is Matt Drudge, and he now has a huge, vast compound to luxuriate in.
I never thought the Drudge Report would be a more ethical site in terms of advertizing than the Atlantic. But it is; and it makes a profit as well.
Drudge is a right wing fear monger with no shame, but he’s at least honest about it. After the Scientology debacle, it’s really hard to take the Atlantic seriously, and Buzzfeed, well it’s popcorn content anyway so it never had a reputation to begin with.
I do understand the need to generate revenue from content. It’s the business I’m in and I know how hard it is for media players to derive income from advertising. But honesty with readers is the most important thing in my opinion. Advertisers are welcome to place ads on our site, but, there are rules: 1. It doesn’t interfere with editorial. 2. It doesn’t become editorial 3. It is labeled ‘advertising’ or ‘sponsored content’.
Sure Sullivan is in a unique position where he can dole out morality lectures to everyone on their business models, but the point is salient. Your reputation is what matters most, and getting too cozy with advertisers can ruin that.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.