Friday, December 06, 2002

On the Commercialization of Content
Rusty Foster contributed a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek screed about online advertorials to Kuro5hin yesterday. Using the recent rash of paid placement bylined articles that Sony sponsored in Salon as a launchpad, Rusty considers the economics behind short lifestyle features published as part of an advertising series. Advertorials are nothing new, but their move to the Web brings up some interesting questions. How long will it be before we're unable to determine whether an online article, discussion forum post, blog entry, or entire site itself is a paid advertisement rather than the grassroots, independent content that makes up much of the Web?

The Kuro5hin commentary is particularly interesting when coupled with last night's Hypergene MediaBlog interview with Rusty about Kuro5hin's acceptance of text ads coupled with the site's standard comments tool. By offering readers a neutral platform on which they can ask questions about a product or service, read other people's feedback on their experiences with the advertiser, and otherwise engage with an advertising partner, Kuro5hin has taken several steps toward the Cluetrain concept of markets as conversations.

Much of Media Diet's content is comprised of reviews, media critiques, and other commentaries. Some people send me free books, comics, records, and zines to consider for review. While I try to review everything that people send me -- it's part and parcel of the zine world's trade economy -- I like to think that receiving materials for free doesn't involve any responsibility to review something positively. If I don't like something, I'll tell you. That person might not send me anything else in the future, but that's the way the ball bounces. Were I serviced by record labels -- which I would welcome -- I might be more mindful of "protecting" that service, but again, I like to think that that wouldn't be the case.

Additionally, creators will often respond to a review I post. Just this week, I've had a delightful email exchange with Sammy Harkham about my interpretation of his Slumber mini. And by checking the traffic logs, I know that someone emailed Paul Pope the link to my recent review of the Comics Interpreter -- a review in which I said I wasn't the biggest fan of his work. Paul hasn't touched base, but, hey, Paul, if you're reading this, send me some free stuff, 'K?

Because I'm pretty shameless. I love getting mail, and I love being introduced to new media artifacts that align with the interests represented here. Send me a free T-shirt, and I'll wear it at least once. I'll even take a picture of me wearing the shirt and publish it here. Is that an advertorial? I think it's silly fun.

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