So I had to do something that I wasn’t too comfortable with the other day. If you go to Strategy Informer, the most popular news post in the past 24 hours is a post I did for one of our US advertisers. It’s not something that’s happened before, and it wasn’t exactly forced on us – the boss simply agreed to their request – but it’s still one of those ‘slippery slope’ things that I try to avoid.
A word from our sponsor… is something I’d hoped I’d never have to do. As Deputy Editor AND Marketing Manager for the same site, I sometimes think I’m walking a fine line and that at some point I’ll encounter such a huge conflict of interest that… well I don’t even know what I’ll do. It can seem a bit melodramatic at times but my training and my experiences/observations have taught me that it’s very important to try and keep editorial and advertising separate wherever possible… or at the least, confine ads to places where they’re kind of expected. Everyone expects banner ads and reskins these days – in fact I like re-skins because the right piece of art-work can actually make the site look really good, whilst also promoting a particular game. Lately, with the rise of video content, video pre-roll ads are also becoming more popular and whilst slightly in-convenient, they’re little different from TV ad-breaks, which is now the norm. Even podcasts sometimes have sponsored messages now, but then you just need to look to radio to find the precedent there.
But then you have ad types like pop-ups, ‘under-pops’ or whatever those ones that appear at the bottom of your browsers are, Interstitial ads (ads that redirect you to an ad filled page before allowing to proceed to where you wanted to go in the first place – I’m sad to see we use those right now), and all those other creative yet still rather annoying ads that aren’t really kosher, aren’t really wanted. And the coup de grace, of course, is advertising within the writing itself, or the news feed in this case.
To be fair, it could of been worse. This message was actually highlighting a competition they were doing, something we’ve done from time to time for our own competitions anyway, and it was just informing them what the prize was and how to enter. Nothing too horrible, and the readers seem to be taking rather well to it. It is kind of an awesome prize, although the fact that it’s for US Citizens only seems to be depressing our European readers some-what.
Games Journalists, when not branded as just incompetent in general, often gets accused of being sell-outs or ‘on the books’ of publishers. My dissertation on Journalism Ethics within our industry, as well as highly publicised incidents like the whole Jeff Gertsmann/GameSpot/Kane & Lynch thing has suggested that at higher levels, questionable stuff does go on, but the majority of the industry is ethically sound (provided the people who are working within it have a concept of ethics to being with). With this kind of perception floating about though, the last thing you need is to actually highlight to the readers that, yes, we get money from advertisers and that, yes, they ask things of us from time to time.
Thankfully, the boss let me be a little creative with the wording – although he then joked to the client that I had had a drug overdose and gone crazy. I’m a firm believer that the funnier something is, the more it will be remembered, which is why I often attempt to inject more entertainment value into my writing . Especially if it’s corporate: The only thing worse that corporate sponsored news is pretending that it’s all expected and ok. At least this way I got to convey the message that, yeah it kind of sucked, but hey, we’re not just taking it lying down… even though the clients liked that approach >.<. God Damn it.
Until next time.