Here's one that should have been filed under 'morality or otherwise'.
Bizarrely, this all started when I saw a story that grabbed my attention on semoz entitled "How I got a link on CNN". It was a very enticing headline with shades of espionage and "shaken not stirred". But alas, it was nothing more than honest to goodness hard work and recognition in a particular field of the Author that got him the article and the link.
Anyway, from that article - one link lead to another and on to a piece, the thrust of this article was about a journo allegedly accepting a 'bribe' to get a web link into a story in a national paper. That I will park there until there is a little more evidence and hard fact than was contained in a particularly speculative story.
But it did lead further to some interesting information regarding what some might see as the sharper end of practice in a particular newspapers/newspaper website.
The Daily Telegraph ran an article on March 7th entitled "Top 50 internet websites to save you money". The piece goes on to further split the fifty into smaller subcategories Top five Comparison websites or Top Five wine websites etc. On the face of it, fairly stock in trade stuff for the features department on any given day. The article appeared in print an online:
"If you have a particular favourite, compare prices by using www.mysupermarket.com alternatively, get good deals - or helpful advice - from any of these websites.
Where's the supposed sharp practice there?
Well, some posters took umbrage to the fact that the link to both the Majestic and Tesco sites were done through the affiliate networks of Affiliate Window and Tradedoubler respectively, thus possibly giving the Telegraph site a commissions on sales.
The thrust of the argument was that the article is ostensibly an editorial and holds itself out to be an advisory article on online wine purchase- but it transpires to be in fact partially commercial. I am quick to point out that these affiliate links were added post publication by the commercial department of the paper.
Personally I think that's perfectly OK. If the advertising money is migrating online and, it could be agued, so are the 'readers' - then its incumbent on the 'print' medial to follow the money and the readers. Our recent JNIR survey showed that 726,000 people went on to a News/Current Affairs site in the past month. These sites drive traffic (up and down stream) so they could capitalise on the traffic they create.
A company, a wine distributor in this case, gets a link from a high traffic and authority source and makes sales of the back of it - why shouldn't the source 'clip the ticket'. I think that the newspapers have a great opportunity to, retrospectively, look that their web content and, where possible, re-work the link thorough an affiliate.