At this point it’s becoming fairly clear that as the panic increases over the demise of newspapers we are entering an era of ‘we’re willing to try anything’ decision making (closing papers as bargaining tactic, anyone?), which may or may not result in a blurring and/or redefining of ethical lines when it comes to how to provide, get, and pay for news online (or at least a frenzied panic over the possibility of blurring).
To wit: The WSJ has a story today about the launch of True/Slant a new news site launched by former AOL exec Lewis Dvorkin. Here’s the kicker. True/Slant intends to run Web ads on the site but “the site plans to offer advertisers their own entire pages where they can run blogs and try to attract a network of followers. These will have the same design and features of the journalists’ pages, but will be labeled as ad content.” Sponsored content, of course, is not entirely new; The Daily Beast recently toyed with it, also, in somewhat similar fashion Gawker used to run book advertisements that were formatted like posts. Also, magazines (not to mention the front pages of newspapers!) have been running advertising sections made to look like editorials for quite some time.
Anyway, as the article points out problems could arise from the fact the site operators will not be pre-approving or editing content, or they might not — considering reader participation and writer interaction is apparently being encouraged at the site, one imagines the watchdog factor will be in full effect.