Gawker’s Bloody Miss, A Hit After All?

Filed as Editorial on June 1, 2009 6:10 pm

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I’ve been watching the BloodCopy debacle for some time. BloodCopy is a new blog in the Gawker Media blog network, about vampired. Problem is, it is a big ad in itself, the whole blog is a HBO promo for the TV series True Blood.

There’s disclosure, hidden away in the Gawker Media footer. There’s no “sponsored post” text or anything. The campaign is, at the very least, balancing along the edge of what is deemed OK within the blogosphere.

We’d better get used to it.

Chris Batty is the VP of sales on Gawker Media, a truly progressive blog network headed up by Nick Denton. Batty said this to Nieman Journalism Lab:

If we’re around in three or four years, the majority of our advertising revenue will be in sponsored posts like this.

Sponsored posts are shunned, and Payperpost comes to mind. However, it is an advertising form that nimbly sidesteps the banner blindness argument. And with disclosure, what’s the problem?

I think it depends on how you disclose it. Look at this screenshot of the Gawker Media footer:

Gawker Media footer

The adverblog is listed there, to the far right. There is a thin line, and a small question mark (which leads to the disclosure). At a glance, there’s nothing that says that BloodCopy is a big ad in itself. The same goes for the actual blog, which will be around for a couple of weeks. It doesn’t say “sponsored blog”. It says BloodCopy. It plays its part.

BloodCopy screenshot

I think the sales folk on Gawker Media went over the line here. Definitely at first, fooling people, but now still. I think that sponsored posts can be a good solution for blogs to create revenue, but it needs to be obvious that a post actually isn’t your opinion, not even your blog’s opinion, but an ad in blog post form. Obvious. Not “if you look close enough there’s disclosure” but truly obvious.

Gabriel Snyder commented on the whole thing on the Gawker blog, and I’ll let him wrap up this post:

What’s advertising should be called advertising and what’s edit should be called edit. It hurts both to blur the distinction.

I bet there’ll be “sponsored blog” text the next time Gawker Media pulls one of these.

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  1. By Brian Carnell posted on June 1, 2009 at 9:11 pm
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    It is a lot like reading the full page ads in magazines that try to mimic the magazine’s layout such that at first glance it looks like its magazine copy rather than an ad. In fact, typically the confusion is so great that the magazine or advertiser inserts a “Paid Advertisment” message.

    What do you think of those ads? Personally, I hate the fact that the advertiser thinks he has to try to fool me to get me to look at the ad. OTOH, the fact that such schemes are so prevalent suggest that they must be fairly effective at least with a sizable part of the readership.

    I don’t think they’ll work online in blogs, however, because of the nature of the readership. I just don’t think you have the passive readers who are going to get fooled easily and/or not are about the attempt to fool them. There’s *always* going to be a backlash against this nonsense because the same tools that make it easy to do also make it easy for others to point and laugh at the sheer stupidity of it all.

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  2. By Thord Daniel Hedengren posted on June 2, 2009 at 5:15 pm
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    Thanks for your comment Brian. I too hate ads trying to pass themselves off as editorial content. It’s a lame way to fool the non-attentive reader to think that the publication endorses something.

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