Every election season, Google and our other ad networks algorithmically place ads on Towleroad for candidates we think it’s pretty likely our readers won’t support, and in some cases even for candidates trying to use the denial of our rights to stir up their base (like the Scott Walker ads that blanketed our site and many others yesterday, much to our surprise).
How do I feel about this?
I say let them advertise, though I know that others feel differently. So we’re looking for your comments and insights below as we come up with an updated ad policy for this election season.
Why do I feel this way?
1. I trust our readers to know the difference between ads and editorial content.
2. I trust our readers to know that allowing an ad is not an endorsement of that advertiser.
3. I trust our readers will not be swayed to vote for evil candidates if they are exposed to banner ads for them.
4. We need the money. It’s harder and harder to run an independent news site every year.
5. We don’t solicit these ads. They are delivered by various algorithms which don’t always differentiate between positive and negative coverage of the candidates.
6. I find it a bit transgressive for us to use right-wing Super PAC money to fund our openly left-leaning gay news site.
7. I prefer they waste some of that money on our site rather than on another whose readers are more easily swayed.
8. There is no chance that our editorial coverage will soften or change as a result of the marginal revenue we earn.
9. It’s hard to draw a line. In the past we have blocked Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh ads since we felt they were placed specifically to troll our users and to try to create publicity for them. In the last election we decided that we would not block Romney ads and in the one before it we didn’t block McCain ads. At some point it felt un-American and a bit patronizing to think we should decide what readers should see.
10. And there is a slippery slope that sometimes isn’t so obvious. We believe in the free exchange of ideas and in our readers’ media savvy…and ours is a diverse readership within which opinions differ. For example, the differences of opinion and inconclusive information available during the calls to boycott Stoli vodka.
On the other hand we know that many of you feel differently and will strongly disagree. Is taking money from Ted Cruz in exchange for letting him reach our readers similar to giving money to Ted Cruz? Should we block all candidates that don’t support marriage equality based on that single issue? (Should we have blocked Obama and Clinton ads before their views evolved?) Are we overestimating our readership’s immunity to the compelling messages of Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and others that Andy and I pretty fundamentally disagree with and think could be dangerous if elected? And what about Trump money, if offered?
[One thing we should reiterate is that our ad networks tell us to definitely NOT encourage readers to click on ads that they are not genuinely interested in since clicks cost those advertisers more and that would mean that more of their ad budgets would be used on an audience that is likely not a good match.]
And while we’re on the topic, we’d love to have the DNC, Democratic candidates and blue PACs really get behind supporting the media that supports them, but don’t see huge commitments coming from them at this point. Hello? Obviously, we’d rather earn our money with political allies, and would appreciate all help in getting that message to them. Without real financial support from entities that want to reach our incredibly engaged and desirable audience, we will simply go away at some point in the not distant future.
Have at it and we will be reading and considering your comments as we consider our ad policy.