Lots of interesting news this week, including a bit of a scandal in the blogging world, discussion of the WTFery of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and lots of publishing news.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a roundup of cheap ebooks discounted as part of Amazon's Kindle Big Deal--there are a lot of good ones this time.
You could argue that affiliate links aren’t technically ads, but that misses the point. If you slap a banner ad on the top of your website, at least readers know it’s an advertisement and they can take it with a great big grain of salt. But when they read a glowing review from someone they trust, then click through to place an order for that book–without knowing said reviewer is getting a kickback–isn’t that worse?
I'm sure I'm not alone in my fascination with the Brainpickings "scandal" that was all over the nerdy corner of the internet this week. It seems that the popular site's claims of being ad-free are definitely a case of parsing, as affiliate links are likely a considerable source of income for the blog, which solicits donations under the auspices of remaining "ad free."
My take? What this issue comes down to is the importance of transparency and erring on the side of caution in ensuring that you're not misrepresenting yourself to readers. This hasn't been touched on, but one of the things that bothers me most about the "ad free" language is that it's backed up by a .org URL, which insinuates a not-for-profit status. (I also question the costs and hours the blog author cites, because both seem out of whack estimates.)
I don't begrudge anyone for using affiliate links and monetizing their sites--clicks on Amazon links pay the hosting bills around here (thank you!)--but I really don't understand why it's still common practice in the day of FTC rules for blogs to be sketchy in this way (this reminds me of the controversy about sponsored content on The Atlantic Blog).
Disclose, disclose, disclose. It's really that simple.