So the Wall Street Journal has an article on the 10th anniversary of blogging. Just one problem, blogging is a few years older than that. Blogger Duncan Riley points out that the WSJ incorrectly labels Jorn Barger the first blogger — even though he’s widely attributed to be the first person to popularize the term “blog.”
Justin Hall and Dave Winer are actually considered to be among the first actual bloggers. Both had sites up for at least a year before Barger. That doesn’t make the WSJ retrospective any less interesting. The article includes some interesting interviews with old and new media types ranging from Mia Farrow to Jim Buckmeister.
But Riley’s article was predominantly a slam against the newspaper for failing to check their facts. And as Donna Bogatin points out, what’s that I see to the left of Riley’s criticism? Advertisements asking me to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal.
I disagree with Bogatin that readers will think this is an implicit endorsement of the WSJ. I think you’d have to be a few chips short of a cookie to think that Riley actually wants you to subscribe to the newspaper. And I think that most savvy readers are well aware that “Ads by Google” means… ads by Google.
But this incident does show a flaw in contextual advertising. If you write about the Wall Street Journal and use its title as many times as I have in this post, odds are Google’s going to serve up a few ads, whether you’ve been bashing the paper or praising it.
On the one hand, this just goes to show that contextual advertising does help keep a firewall between advertising and editorial content. You can pick your nose, but you can’t pick the ads that will show up on your site. On the other hand, readers may rightly think that some authors write about topics specifically to attract high-paying ads related to those topics. So in a way, the advertising is clearly affecting the way some people write. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty easy to spot and avoid web sites that are designed more with Google in mind than readers.