New Online Journalism Venture Tests Crazy New Business Model

The website True/Slant has launched today in “open alpha” mode, and while it’s not promising to save journalism, it’s got a pretty optimistic outlook on what it will do.
The brainchild of Lewis DVorkin, formerly an AOL exec, executive editor at Forbes, and an editor at the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the New York Times, “True/Slant is “an original content news network tailored to both the “New Journalist” and marketers who want a more effective way to engage with digital audiences…Knowledgeable and credible contributors anchor and build their digital brands on True/Slant using tools that enable them to easily create content and craft stories filtered through human perspective (not an algorithm).” Just marketing gobbledegook or a new model? Read more after the jump.

Not only will contributors (who include current and former writers for Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and more) get their own pages to blog as they please, but marketers will be able to contribute under something called the “T/S Ad Slant.” True/slant promises that these ads will be “fully transparent, with marketer-created content clearly labeled to maintain the integrity of the conversation.”
That’s all well and good, but according to the Wall Street Journal,
“The journalists are paid a small amount, but the plan is to turn them into minipublishers under the True/Slant umbrella. They will be offered a share of the advertising and sponsorship revenues their individual pages generate and, in some cases, equity in True/Slant, which is backed by venture capital…They also are allowed to arrange for their own advertising or sponsorships, in addition to what True/Slant can sell…”
We find this a troubling development. If contributors are paid “a small amount” but can get more money through product placement or other forms of sponsorship, who’s to judge whether the news is neutral or biased?