For any specialist interest, be it trade or hobbyist, it is the norm to find at least one specialist magazine. If you are into selling comics and games you are probably an avid reader of the Comic and Games Retailer publication. Where would the world's tissue vendors be without their Tissue World Magazine? Also I cannot imagine the problems caused if the machine lubricators were deprived of their monthly Machine Lubrication Magazine.
Those of us who are proponents of free software, and follow it in the technical press, also have our weird and wonderful publications. Though being IT oriented these tend to be on-line based rather than paper based (such as Free Software Magazine), but often have to undergo an experience that is distasteful and nauseating...
On-line magazines will frequently raise money by advertising, and often it is the only source of revenue. However, the way a lot of on-line advertising works is that there is little control as to what advertisement appears next to what article, or so it would seem. The result of which is that next to an article covering the release of Red Hat Linux 5.1 beta you get a Microsoft advertisement spreading FUD saying that “State government says that Linux was too big a risk” and advocating its own solution.
When the editors of Linux.com (where the above happened) are interrogated about such things they say that they have absolutely no control over what advertisement appears where. However it appears that Microsoft does have some influence over the layout of the magazine, probably due to the power of the buck. It still is upsetting seeing an article regarding a new product next to an advertisement for a company that would like to see that product fail and consigned to oblivion.
This kind of thing I find irksome. I find myself not being able to disassociate the advertisement from the publication, and I find it to have a negative impact on my experience of the site. This cannot be good for Linux.com.
I know the advertisements pay for the thing, but in the old days, and in current paper magazines, it is often the case that the vendor being covered is contacted and asked if they would like to place a more relevant advertisement next to the article. In fact, often the vendor will contact the magazine asking for such. The end result is beneficial to all and not improper so long as a clear distinction is made between the article and the advertisement. Surely with today’s amazing communications and the technology of the internet such collaborations are not beyond the capabilities of the web-masters.
At this stage I have to say I have yet to see our own Free Software Magazine display contradicting advertisements next to articles. That is not to say they have not done so, I have just not caught them at it yet. [Note: we have a long, ever growing list of banned URLs - Tony Mobily, editor]
More recently an interesting twist is appearing and is epitomized in a BBC on-line article entitled Firms withdraw BNP Facebook ads. To briefly summarize the article, the BNP is the “British Nationalist Party” and is an extreme right wing organization which has been associated with racism and violence and considered by the vast majority of people here in the UK to be offensive. Vodafone and First Direct are companies that rely greatly on brand association, and have placed advertisements on Facebook. The inevitable happened, advertisements for those two companies have appeared with right wing BNP material, and the companies do not want to be associated with them.
Facebook claim it is nothing to do with them. They have no affiliations to extreme right wing or other political parties. They do not want to sensor material even if it is offensive. Social network sites like that do not function well in a “nanny” environment. Which advertisements displayed where are selected using a word search and random algorithm without any user interaction. That, however, makes no difference to the fact that the Facebook website associated those brand oriented companies with an undesirable right wing organization.
Obviously, the time has come for that old cry: “Something must be done!”. What? I do not know. It appears that the days of displaying advertisements based on word content and randomness is numbered, though the motivation for change may well come from the advertisers rather than the readers. That is understandable considering that is where the money is coming from. Once the technology is in place then maybe sites like Linux.com can have more appropriate advertisements against their articles making it a more pleasant read.
Although it is necessary to please advertisers to get revenue, it is also necessary to please readers as well. Without readers the advertisers will simply not be interested.
Ah well, time to for me to disappear back to my favourite annual publication...