Jason Calacanis claims to have discovered that for $300 to $400, you can buy an editorial on Fark.com, one of the most popular blogs. In an email exchange with Jason, a sales person Gogi (who Drew, who runs Fark explains is a 3rd party ad sales rep) writes:

Gogi
However, if you look at any news source, they are influenced by PR agencies, wine & dine’s and similar events. Take a look at the Graydon Carter as example #1. I challenge you to find a pure editorial voice in news today.

Also, its not news, its Fark.com. ;-) We run stories that we know are false, run satire, try not to let our personal political views affect the content and often include adult-natured items in the daily roundup. We don’t hold ourselves to the same standards as the NYT, and I would urge you not to either.

Just as we're trying to prove how "pure" bloggers are, it appears that maybe one of our own has "sold out". As Jason points out, it wouldn't have been bad if the purchased editorials were marked as advertising. I agree with Jason, that people probably would have happily clicked on them if they looked interesting. What sucks is that they didn't disclose this before.

Drew Curtis posts a comment on Jason's blog explaining that Gogi doesn't represent Fark. He says, "I am personally not interested in compromising the quality of the site, hence no pop-up ads or take-overs." but doesn't really deny the editorial sponsorship issue directly and Jason says he is not convinced until he hears from Gogi.

It's unclear at this point, whether Fark really is selling editorials and how much influence this Gogi guy has, but 1) the email from Gogi is pretty bad and 2) it would be nice for Drew to explain his policy. Some of the Fark readers commenting on Jason's blog says to cut Drew some slack...

18 Comments

fark.com can go fark themselves. They're a pretty good news aggregator but the steady diet of Dem-bashing headlines get tiresome.

metafilter has a similar problem with idiot republicans engaged in either denial or in dishonest agitprop, but at least the right-thinking (as opposed to right-wing) community can dish it out as good as it takes it there.

Huh? Selling editorials? 'Editorial' on Fark? And if they didn't do this then Technorati would be the next BBC?

I know I've said this a million times, but I really don't see what blogging has to do with journalism any more than macrame or inline skating or any of the zillion other things that bloggers are interested in. (I also think calling Fark a 'blog' is really stretching it. And I don't see anything wrong with Fark selling links. Blah blah ... I think .. who cares what I think? ;)

OK, don't call it a blog, don't call it editorial. I think my issue here is that some people thought that the links on Fark were "editorial-like" and didn't realize you could buy them. (If this is indeed true.) It adds to the "you can't trust what you read on the Internet" and the "blogs have no ethics" image. I think this is particularly true because Fark is quite popular. I don't see what's wrong with being critical here.

Also, I agree that MOST blogs don't have anything to do with journalism, but some do.

"Fark is quite popular"
That's the only real problem I see... ;)

Sorry Joi - didn't mean to come off so dismissive :)

There is certainly nothing wrong with being critical here - it doesn't look like the main column on Fark is supposed to be paid links and it is a little disengenuous to be selling slots. I get that. I don't think it'll make any difference in whether journalists take blogs seriously though. (And it makes no difference to my opinion of Fark ;)

OTOH, just because Fark sells links for money instead of connections, prestige, back-scratching, etc., it is part of a continuum.

For example, Flickr gets a lot of links from BoingBoing (and Cory is good pointing out that he is an advisor to my company). All of Calcanis's project get a lot of links too and I never understood why until someone told me that Xeni used to work for Jason. Is that an ethical breach? Or is that just the way life is?

I post links to friends' project all the time and don't point out that we are friends. I don't feel like I have to answer to *anyone* re what I post about (and of course I have no ambitions at all about being taken seriously in any respect).

And yes - there are definitely blogs that have a lot to do with journalism (and some that are in a grey area in between the two).

Selling editorial is wrong. When the core submitters find out about this the site could easily unravel. Fark.com is a good example of good content with poor sales. Unless they can sort this issue out they will be superceded by news providers that will copy the format and be able to effectively manage the editorial/advertising issue.

I think that linking to friends (hopefully they're friends because you trust them) is different than linking to anyone that pays cash to some ad agent. (Which Fark is allegedly doing.) I think the linking to friends is another issue and more subtle than cash for links.

File under "so what".

Seriously, who cares if fark sells editorials? The web didnt change the art of bullshit, it just picked up the pace. This whole idea that personal web pages or group link sites are any different from any other kinds of web pages is silly. Calling something a blog or weblog does not make it special at all. There is no more guarantee of integrity, honesty or accountability than anywhere else. Were I to stand on the corner in Nagatacho handing out leaflets accusing the Koizumi administration of being puppets of the imperialist running dog Bush Junta, is that somehow any different than some bits on the web?

Chris, I think the point is just that some people trusted Fark and this was a departure from their expected ethical level.

Hi Joi! Drew comments about the links to iFilm -- he forgets to note that iFilm pays him approx $.01 CPC. This is fact -- ask iFilm.

Paid and relevant entertainment-related sponsorships happen a lot more than people would like to think, especially on these big E/N sites (Entertainment/News). These deals are very similar to Yahoo! bumping your paid directory submission, right?

I'm sure it happens in other small media - we're just a transparent-friendly crowd 'round here.

I doubt they're alone in this. Look at Boingboing's cozy relationship with Fleshbot...makes ya wonder.

Calling it a blog is wierd, calling it editorial is even wierder. It's a link dump that allows for posting of comments. The links have to stand on their merit whether user submitted, a friend or a paid customer.

Paul Harvey personally endorses and promotes products over a good 20% of his show each day. How dare he! And he doesn't actually say it's a sponsored deal.

And lastly, I don't buy it. If Gupta Media (or whomever it was) tried to do that it wasn't Drew's idea, nor did he long stand for it. I know, I tried to buy placement in the center column and Drew said effectively "I'll give it to you for free, you just have to write a better article."

You know, it sounds to me like this Calcanis fella just decided to take matters into his own hands and try to ring up some free advertising. Sure, he called in a favor over with his buddy at wired. You think that he could have gotten so much attention buying an ad?

I think there is a big difference between a site paying out a couple dollars based on how much traffic was pushed to them a few times a month compared to sites paying up front for a link somewhere.

Seconding Brian White's emotion. I, like him, have never been asked for money to get front page placement, and our site received front page placement twice (for FCC and DNC humor articles) in the last two months.

Unless paid links make up the lion's share of the main page links - and, having looked carefully at what gets through over the last few months, I feel that it's not the case - then this is simply a 'caveat lector' issue.

Though I'm not sure it "adds" anything to the image of the Internet as Joi states, because that image ought to be firmly in place already, especially within the ranks of the "Farkistanians."

uh... you mean Drew does what he wants with HIS own website ?! OH NO's !!

get real... it's his site, his business option even if he does.

As long as they continue to keep a balanced diet of good stories, I will continue to read. I've known that they sell links for some time now, and that has not changed my perception in any way. It doesn't take any time to skip over the links you are not interested in.

FARK is still 1000 times better than broadcast media, who incorporate advertisements into their "news" stories. It's become nothing but soft news and angry people shouting at each other over insignificant details. FARK is far more fair and balanced than any of the other guys. You also get to have a forum of users to call BS when somebody in a story isn't telling the truth.

OMFG drew gets paid for a link (which he has talked about, AND is advertised, thus providing transparency) on an entertainment site (because who uses fark as a /real/ news source, anyways?).

Where's the intercept talking about Fox News routinely 'editorializing' news?

or should i say "news".

Screw Fark, the cracklog is waaaay better...

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