Greetings, discerning readers.
The “contextual advertising” model has been gathering steam lately, with contextual links becoming commonplace underneath, and adjacent or contiguous to, many kinds of content—from search engine listings to articles in major daily newspapers.
Some links are relevant and useful, some are decidedly not. Last week, for example, I read a Boston Globe columnist’s write-up of David Foster Wallace’s sharply critical look at the Maine Lobsterfest from the perspective of the roiling, thrashing lobster in the pot (he called such torture “medieval”).
Meanwhile, beneath the article were contextual links for order-online clambakes and lobsters shipped anywhere. Ironic? Sure. Good advertising? You decide.
Ever since I’ve worked in online publishing, some advertisers have been chomping at the bit to go one step beyond links and banner ads that run outside the text, and actually embed their advertising within the content on the page. And some trade publications and message boards have done just that.
But I was a little surprised last week when I heard that Forbes.com was using VibrantMedia technology in its content. Place your cursor over certain words in some Forbes articles, and a small ad box pops up; click on it, and it takes you to the advertiser’s landing page.
I’m no editorial prude. I love our advertisers (group hug!) and I enjoy working with them. I’ve written about the “dance” between editorial and advertising several times. I think that editorial and advertising can afford some level of intimacy—provided that the people in charge maintain a respect for healthy boundaries.
But the Forbes example seems to me to crash that boundary with an M1 Abrams battle tank. In my view, advertising tied so tightly to content violates editorial ethics and threatens the integrity of the publication.
What do you think? As always, your feedback is both welcome and encouraged.
Until next week,