Ziff Davis, eWeek, Again Subject of Ethics Controversy

The same day I posted about a recent Folio: profile of Ziff Davis Media, B2B publishing consultant Paul Conley published a blog post titled "Ziff Davis crosses the ethics line again."

Conley's post centers around Ziff Davis' decision to once again use Vibrant Media's IntelliTXT in-context ads on some of its sites, after pulling them from eWeek earlier this year. (See earlier post on this blog, "eWeek/IntelliTXT Flap," and two earlier posts on Paul Conley's blog, "eWeek crosses an ethical line" and " eWeek retreats in ads-within-edit scandal" for background.) The ads are back in eWeek and also appear on the company's CIO Insights web site.

Folio: published a story about the controversy on May 3. The article quotes Ziff Davis editorial director and senior VP Michael Vizard as saying "The IntelliTXT ads are clearly labeled as advertisements in compliance with existing ASME and ASBPE guidelines as we understand them. Should these officially recognized bodies adopt specific policies related to IntelliTXT ads, we would welcome that clarification and would also be inclined to comply with those guidelines."

ASBPE's ethics guidelines do, in fact, state that links within editorial content should be under editorial control. But in response to Vizard's statement, the ASBPE ethics committee has attempted to clarify the issue. The last sentence of the relevant portion of our Code of Preferred Editorial Practices, Section VII, Paragraph D, previously read:
Contextual links within editorial content should not be sold, and generally should not link to a vendor’s Web site, unless it is pertinent to the editorial content or helpful to the reader.
It now reads:
Contextual links within editorial content should not be sold. If an editor allows a link, it generally should not link to a vendor’s Web site, unless it is pertinent to the editorial content or helpful to the reader.
ASBPE national president Roy Harris relayed this change to Folio: and it was posted as an addendum to the May 3 article. As Roy says in an accompanying statement to Folio:, "We feel the code offers a clear guideline: Editors, not publishers or ad-sales folks, should make the final decisions on ALL uses of links within edit copy. Also, ad links within editorial text should NOT be sold under any condition."

A short news item about the whole matter will soon be issued by ASBPE national and posted on the ASBPE web site. I'll post an update when it appears. In the meantime, here are other posts on the topic:

From ASBPE ethics committee member Jeff Seglin:
From Paul Conley's blog:
From custom publisher Rex Hammock's blog:
For a contrarian view, see this post on Eric Shanfelt's personal blog:
(Shanfelt is a former senior VP of emedia at Penton Media Inc.)

Update, 5/16/07: Also see "ASBPE Speaks Out on Hypertext Link Issue," on the news section of ASBPE's web site.

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