Bonum Certa Men Certa

ZDNet UK: Is the Affair With Microsoft Over?

Summary: "Windows 7" is no longer a top-level section in ZDNet UK and we raise questions about the role of advertisers in news sites

SOME months ago we took the screenshot above. It showed that ZDNet UK was almost certainly paid by Microsoft to alter its content and add a Microsoft product as a top-level section. Well... no more.

Not enough can ever be said about the way corporate media works. I saw it myself when I wrote for online publications. To suggest complete separation between advertising and stories is ludicrous at best because editors and publishers are always aware of what they must and mustn't do in order to attract advertisers or secure existing contracts.

Some months ago we wrote about Linux Today letting Carla go after she probably said something about the advertising (we are not sure, but we can only speculate as she did drop some hints)]. Christine Hall puts it well in her new post which states (in reference to Linux Today): "Recently, when this same site “laid off” practically their whole staff and greatly reduced their content, the issue of Redmond’s ads came up again, with many expressing the opinion that Microsoft’s money was behind the move. I can certainly see how it might smell that way, but my experience working at radio stations and newspapers has taught me that odors can be deceiving.

“I have experienced first hand the undue influence a big spending advertiser can have, both in print and in broadcasting.”
      --Christine Hall
"Microsoft’s money very likely had nothing to do with the layoffs. Even so, this incident has caused me to change my thinking on the subject. The problem is one of perception. Although the actions taken by the site were probably relatively innocent, based on necessity brought about by a weak economy and lack of cash flow, the always-suspicious-of-Microsoft readership was immediately more than willing to jump on the bandwagon and proclaim “this is what happens when you crawl into bed with Microsoft!” This is a dangerous position for a news organization to find itself in, for when you lose the trust of your readers, you’ve lost it all.

"This loss of trust isn’t entirely unfounded. Even those of us who’re inclined to defend the site can’t be absolutely positive that Ballmer & Company isn’t calling at least a few of the shots from behind the curtain. I have experienced first hand the undue influence a big spending advertiser can have, both in print and in broadcasting."

We urge people to remember that sites like CNET and ZDNet are paid heavily by companies like Apple and Microsoft and even if those advertising contracts are supposed not to affect so-called "content" (usually, the content is actually the ads and the stories just "fill" to attract people to these ads), they can easily affect the appointment of writers, which is a top-down process. It's a selection process and those who can appease advertisers will thrive.

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