On sponsored posts at Gigaom

As digital publishing evolves, new ways to make money that aren’t necessarily dependent on page views are welcome. The guidelines for how concepts like native advertising should be handled by publishers seeking to do things the right way are fluid, but among publishers who care deeply about the trust of their readers, one thing that has not changed is a commitment to editorial integrity.

Gigaom ran two sponsored posts this week purchased by the National Security Agency as part of a digital advertising package for our home page. The posts have prompted some criticism and some questions — some of which were fair, and some of which were ludicrous — about the way Gigaom handles sponsored posts and how sponsored post clients affect our ability to cover this industry.

In the interest of transparency, I wanted to share our current sponsored post policy on behalf of the company to set the record straight.

Once a sponsored post has been sold (usually as part of a banner ad package), Gigaom Sales reviews the post to make sure it adheres to a series of guidelines that are designed to keep certain kinds of advertisers (porn, guns, booze and a few others) from running sponsored posts on our site. We also want to avoid publishing sponsored posts that launch personal or organizational attacks on the advertiser’s competitors.

Sponsored posts are clearly labeled as sponsored content in the headline, and we always disable comments on sponsored posts, because the client has paid for an exclusive message in that space that they don’t want hijacked by competitors. Gigaom reviews the copy of the sponsored post for typos or grammatical errors, but the client produces all the copy.

Gigaom Editorial is not involved in this process at any step. The charge leveled by some this week that our coverage of the NSA (which hasn’t exactly been positive) will be influenced by this transaction is completely false.

This company has published hundreds of sponsored posts over the years and not a single one of them has influenced our decision-making process about how to cover the tech industry. Since I’ve been at Gigaom, our editorial group has never been asked by a sponsored post salesperson or client to alter our content-decision making process in order to ensure that client’s continued business, probably because they know our response will be to politely request that they go pound sand.

The fact that these posts were purchased by the NSA does not change that philosophy one bit, and will not affect the way we cover the serious issues surrounding that agency’s very troubling practices brought to light by former employee Edward Snowden.

In assessing our current policy, we realize there are probably some things we could improve with respect to how we handle sponsored posts. We are currently reviewing that policy to make sure we are producing sponsored content at the level expected of Gigaom.

Our writers and editors produce outstanding, trustworthy content every day that is completely free of any influence from our advertisers, be they traditional banner advertisers or sponsored post clients, and indifferent to threats that such advertising might disappear. One of the best parts about writing for Gigaom is that our business is diversified across editorial, events and research to the extent that we are not reliant on advertising dollars to run our business the way many of our competitors are.

That is not going to change.

Photo by Jakub Mosur

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