The Scientific Activist (Archives)


Feb 1, 2006

Going Commercial

Since The Scientific Activist has grown quite a bit lately, and since I am still a starving graduate student, I’ve decided to experiment with Google advertising. Being the fervent anti-capitalist that I am, though, I wanted to be open about this decision and to make a few comments.

The greatest problem with the corporate media institutions is that they are subject to the whims of their advertisers. They have to be—otherwise they would go out of business—but this affects the quality of their news coverage. Since my livelihood isn’t derived from advertising revenue, and since only what advertising appears on my site—but not how much—depends on the content of my blog, I don’t expect that to be an issue here.

I have made it pretty clear in the past how I feel about Google, so I’m approaching this venture with a healthy degree of skepticism. I’m going to keep my eyes out for inappropriate advertising, and I hope you will too. If you see an ad that you don’t think belongs on this site, please let me know, either by commenting on this post or by sending me an email. I’ll then correct the situation as necessary.

Here is an example of what I would consider inappropriate advertising. The following is a letter, which did not get published, that I wrote to The New York Times last year:
To the Editor:

Re "Correspondence School Helped College Players Qualify " (Nov. 27):

The recent article on high school football players using correspondence schools to pad their G.P.A.s to meet N.C.A.A. eligibility highlighted the tendency of large organizations to turn the other way instead of facing contentious issues.

I’m sure the irony was not lost on those who read the online version of this article and found it juxtaposed to an advertisement for another correspondence school offering the opportunity to “earn a degree in 7 days.” Unlike the schools mentioned in the article, this one did not require any coursework (no courses were available) to purchase one or more of a full spectrum of degrees, from high school diplomas to doctorate degrees.

Despite the New York Times disavowing responsibility for this advertisement and others selected by a Google keyword-targeting program, this incident should inspire a dialogue about the proper role of technology and the influence of advertising revenue in the media.

Nick Anthis

Let's have that dialogue. My decision to accept advertising is not a closed one, so I welcome your input.


  • It's a far from trivial issue to get around. In a newspaper you can see exactly what advertising is going to appear where and spot any potential conflicts easily. On the web, advertising campaigns run for a limited period of time, but articles remain in perpetuity.

    This means over the life of an article it will hmave many different ads appearing and the number of those articles for anything much larger than a blog will make it impossible to have it human managable and I'm not convinced that it's feasible to have a full proof technical solution.

    By Anonymous Phil Wills, at Thu Feb 02, 01:50:00 PM  

  • I think that because of those reasons, though, advertisers have a much greater control over the content in a publication that sells spots for specific advertisers in specific locations.

    In the case of my blog, though, I just want to make sure people don't feel that the integrity of the content is compromised by contradictory advertisements.

    By Blogger Nick Anthis, at Thu Feb 02, 03:57:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Nick Anthis, at Sat Feb 04, 08:02:00 PM  

  • unobtrusive advertising is no biggie. you go!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Feb 08, 01:02:00 AM  

  • Of course there is one nice irony with many "inappropriate" ads: science and nature sites seem to be infested with crappy "learn about life with Jesus" ads. I make a point of clicking them, so they're contributing to the funding of sites presenting the opposite view.

    Great blog, by the way. Keep it up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 10, 03:24:00 AM  

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