An Advertising Conundrum

I guessed this would happen eventually: through one of the advertising aggregators I use for this blog a service I’ve been critical of has submitted an ad. Do I accept it?

Advertising aggregators provide a service to companies by letting them place banner and other web ads on participating blogs. I’ve been trying FeedBurner, for example, which puts ads on my blog and at the bottom of blog postings. They’re pretty obviously ads, since they’re all snazzy and jazzed up, and they help to defray (I love using the word ‘defray’) the costs of running the blog. Not everyone likes having to put up with ads, but we’re not running a charity here.

Anyway, Xdrive, an online storage service now owned by AOL, has just submitted an ad. I knew this might happen; I’ve seen their ad appear on other blogs using the FeedBurner service. But this blog has been something of a thorn in the side of Xdrive, ever since I started writing about some user complaints about a year ago (Google “xdrive” and a Loose Wire post appears among the first 10 results. Google “xdrive problems”  and it’s top.) And things don’t seem to have gotten any better: two readers complained only last week about the service.

My first reaction was to decline the ad, something I’ve only done once before with a service that was too unclear about what it offered to pass muster (I love saying ‘muster’ too.) Why should I allow an ad for a service that may not be up to scratch? But then cooler heads prevailed. Declining the Xdrive ad would imply I had somehow endorsed the ads I had approved to run. While I’ll try not to allow ads that appear to be questionable, I don’t think readers are going to assume that every product advertised on this blog is one I suggest they go out and buy. Or do you?

Two other issues raise their heads: Should I alert AOL that they’re running an ad on a blog that has been critical of the service that they’re advertising? Or is it their lookout? (Perhaps they know this already and are trying to redress the balance. Or they see criticism as part of the conversation.)

Another: Should I make clearer what my policy is on advertising so readers are not confused? And if so, where should I put it? And what should it say? That’s something I’m going to work on, and of course something I’d be delighted to take input on from readers. I’m sure I’m not the first blogger to face this issue. The debate about balancing the needs of advertisers with the needs of a free and objective press is not a new one, and not one that, to my knowledge, has ever been entirely resolved. Maybe bloggers can have a shot at it.

My Links

If you’re visiting the site and not reading the feed, you might have noticed one or two slight changes to the blog. This is part of a move to an overhaul which I’m approaching with my usual timidity and poor sense of urgency. First off, sorry for the changing photo. I did include one from the other night when I wore the former ruling party’s outfit to Planet Hollywood which didn’t go down well with a regional governor sitting at the bar. I got a few scowls from him, especially when I grabbed a metal detector and started swiping the bags of passers by. Indonesians are way too nice.

Secondly, I’ve added a link roll from my collection. This is an attempt to pass on to those who are interested those links I’ve come across that I thought were worth saving. If you move your mouse over the link a bubble should appear with some comment in there to give you an idea why I thought it was worth saving.

 I’d be interested in your thoughts. The downside of this is that those subscribing to the feed won’t see it unless they subscribe to my feed, which is probably more than you really want to do. Anyway, it’s an experiment. There may be a better way to do this.

Finally, for those of you subscribing to the feed: thanks. And, if you’re not already, take the FeedBurner feed, not the TypePad one. It’s better, I can get a better idea of what’s of interest to you (generally speaking, not you in particular) and it should look nice in your aggregator.