Excerpt, then a comment:.
Given the collective bargaining power needed to amass ad dollars, many popular independent bloggers have handed over their sidebars and headers to large blog networks, trusting them to seek out advertisers in return for a percentage of revenue. The larger networks can sometimes contain hundreds of bloggers and sell access to their blogs as packaged deals, meaning a single ad will be displayed across dozens of blogs within a network.
In most cases, this is ideal for the blogger because he can focus on creating content without having to waste time chasing down advertisers.
But occasionally this can lead to an ad placement with which the blogger doesn’t agree, and this is when controversy erupts.
Take, for instance, the Scienceblogs network, which faced a revolt from over a dozen of its own bloggers a few weeks ago when it decided to launch a corporate blog sponsored by Pepsi.
The blog — since taken down — resembled all the other blogs on the network and was aggregated alongside them in its main news feed. Perhaps most outrageously, the corporate-penned posts were being indexed in Google News, which has a high bar of entry for what news sources it allows.
The science bloggers were not happy that their journalistic integrity had been compromised so haphazardly. “The major problem wasn’t necessarily that an advertorial went up, it was that [Seed Media]” — the company that owns Scienceblogs — “didn’t give us any indication of what was going on,” Brian Switek told me in a phone interview.
Switek is a science writer who left the network in protest of the Pepsi decision. “All of a sudden we have this new blog that’s entirely run by Pepsi staff and overseen by Pepsi with no editorial oversight from Scienceblogs.”
For Switek, the incident chipped into the “general credibility that Scienceblogs has tried to create since its inception in terms of inviting people with great science writing with integrity who aren’t shills for certain companies.”
He alleged that Seed knew ahead of time that its bloggers wouldn’t like the campaign, and that’s why it didn’t give any warning and ultimately was so slow to respond to the outrage.
But despite this lack of transparency, the science blogger admired the fact that Seed didn’t attempt to censor any of the backlash. “For all my other criticisms, I really have to credit Seed with not editing any of the criticism, not taking it down, not telling us that we can’t make those comments.”
I followed this dispute with interest and some anxiety. I often think about putting Google ads on my sites, and then I think about what might turn up. So I chicken out and run only ads for some of my books, and for The Tyee, an online magazine that I contribute a lot to.It really does boil down to credibility. My major blog is H5N1, on a subject about which I can’t claim to be an expert. All I can do is choose sources and experts who do seem to have some credibility, and leave it at that. If ads for belly-fat reduction, or worse yet homeopathic bird-flu cures, started to pop up on my site, I’d cringe.
If I could control the ads (without spending all my time drumming up business), it might be different. But I can’t, so I run only the ads you see here.