Some interesting news came our way last week when another UK Search Marketer told us they’d been offered (and had paid for) links from the website of a major UK newspaper. At £15,000 it was an expensive buy, but with the national newspaper sites being such huge authority hubs they felt it was worth the money. The most unusual thing, aside from the high value of the deal, was that they’d been approached directly by a journalist, not by the newspaper in question.
I think it’s interesting that some UK journos are getting wise to the commercial value of links, though it will worry anyone who cares about the integrity of the press that these deals are being done under the table. The resulting links were embedded into editorial copy with no hint that the link is there for commercial gain – In traditional media this kind of deal would strictly appear as “advertorial” or a “sponsored feature”, which is the way it has to be unless we’re to lose faith in our press entirely.
As I can’t blow the cover of the person who passed on the info I went looking for other examples, and it didn’t take long to turn up some below-the-radar paid links on Telegraph.co.uk:
All looks above board at first, but if you mouse over some of the “recommended” sites and check your browser’s status bar you’ll see there’s a clear commercial interest:
Many of these links go via affiliate networks such as Tradedoubler & Affiliate Window, which will pay a commission on sales. I’m no expert but I think that’s sailing pretty close to the wind in terms of journalistic integrity, and I believe the NUJ’s code of conduct would agree with me.
So what’s occurring? Is this a new revenue stream for The Telegraph or just rogue staffers making some cash on the side? The Telegraph Press Office haven’t been able to say anything either way, but one things for sure: you can buy editorial links from the UK press if you have enough cash and access to the right person.
Update (24th March 2009)
Just received clarification from The Telegraph’s press office: The links that you refer to are added post-publication by our commercial department. The use of an intermediary to track links has no impact on which websites our journalists select and this does not affect our editorial standards in anyway.
Good to know it’s not an employee going off the reservation, though I do think it’s a cause for concern that The Telegraph is taking payment for promoting other companies and not making their readers aware of the fact.