Request for Comments and Announcement of Workshop on Blurred Lines: Advertisement or Editorial? FTC Workshop on Native Advertising, Project No. P134510 #00009

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Request for Comments and Announcement of Workshop on Blurred Lines: Advertisement or Editorial? FTC Workshop on Native Advertising, Project No. P134510
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News website Boing Boing describes themselves from their "About Us" page at as: "Boing Boing is the web's favorite zine devoted to the weird, wonderful and wicked things to be found in technology and culture. Independent for nearly 25 years, it publishes a daily mix of short articles, long features, and video productions. The site's writers/editors are career journalists who have contributed to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wired, Scientific American, NPR, CNN, and many other news outlets." Despite calling itself independent and promoting the news credentials of its staff, it posts paid stories indistinguishable from articles without disclaimer. Specifically, the story "Boing Boing apartment in Comcast Town" is substantially out of line with the general news and feel of Boing Boing. The post itself isn't identified as sponsored, paid, or otherwise not written independently by Boing Boing writers and editors. The original text of the post is: "Boing Boing apartment in Comcast Town David Pescovitz at 11:51 am Thu, Apr 23, 2009 Comcast (a BB sponsor) is holding a contest in which you design your own virtual apartment in "Comcast Town." They invited Boing Boing to judge but, even more fun, they asked us to suggest some Boing Boing furniture that people could use to decorate their pads! Above is the living room I designed. (I'm obviously not eligible to win. Sniff, sniff.) Notice the steampunk computer, carnivorous plant, and Flying Spaghetti Monster statue. I think the illustrator did a terrific job. In fact, I wish it was my real living room! The grand prize winning design gets a real-world room remodel, 40-inch HDTV, a new laptop, and a digital phone. I'm just helping select the ten finalists -- then it's up to The People. Comcast Town (Flash site) David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco." The URL of the post is: The comments on the post, available at the above URL, are unusually and overwhelmingly negative, owing to the fact that the content of the post is out of line with Boing Boing's general style. I emailed Rob Beschizza, Managing Editor of Boing Boing, to register my disappointment and ask for more details. In his reply he said the post was a sponsored post, and claimed the sponsorship was disclosed. However the sponsorship of the post was not disclosed, only the fact that Comcast was a Boing Boing sponsor (which I would assume to be a general advertising relationship around traditional banner ads, or other clear disclosed advertising). My original email to Rob Beschizza on 10/9/2011: Hi, I’m a former frequent BoingBoing reader. About two and a half years ago, you published the story “Boing Boing apartment in Comcast Town.” With my faith in BoingBoing’s editorial integrity seriously harmed, I haven’t been back since. Believing in honest mistakes and second chances, before I begin reading BoingBoing again I would like to know of your current editorial policies regarding sponsored stories, stories about sponsors, and story selection with respect to your advertisers. Ideally I would appreciate seeing specific written policies that bind your authors and editors. I hope strong policies of editorial independence from sponsors exist which are intrinsically held by your editors and writers, and would like to trust BoingBoing as one of my sources for news again. Thank you Rob's reply later that day: Ad policy It's substantially unchanged for years and will not satisfy you, because it still permits that kind of item. Besides, if you stopped reading BB because of a disclosed, sponsored post about some corporate thing, you just don't trust us and will only get angry again sooner or later. Rob