Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Goliath and the Stars of David

There's nothing better than watching a little guy with a cause punching above his weight, be it at the foot of a beanstalk, on the set of a kung fu film or in the third round of the FA Cup.

Readers of the JC, whose purse strings I now hold, know the feeling well, having seen their favourite Sabbath distraction feed the national media major exclusives three weeks running; from leaked emails at Clarence House to David Abraham's philosophy of giving to the £2 million-a-year Prudential boss who broke his nose during a Sunday football spat.

None of them came easy. The first was classic use of contacts, the second, days of persistence and refusal to take no for an answer and the third a result of tracking down 22 men in shorts and half a dozen in suits, all of whom were one way or another sworn to secrecy.

It's always good to do. Better by far to do it against the odds. And somehow satisfying that it all emanated from the last remaining national newspaper office in EC4.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

In text advertising? In your dreams . . .

The newspapers experimenting with in-text advertising are deluding themselves if they think there is any merit in allowing companies to sponsor words in stories.

There is not and it pains me to think they are people out there daft enough to think there is.

Sky Sports, Dennis Publishing and the Telegraph have decided to let advertisers choose words that relate to their products, highlight them in text and link through to an annoying - and in terms of any sort of editorial credibility, damaging - pop-up ad.

As the Guardian have clearly realised, this is a massive abuse of readers' trust and the thin end of a very dangerous wedge and, wisely, passed. But in America, Vibrant Media claim they are delivering these ads to 110 million web users a month on nearly 3,000 sites, many oif them owned by papers such as The Indianapolis Star, The Arizona Republic, and the Reno Gazette-Journal.

I've encountered these in several previous lives and, once upset my commercial team by calling a meeting with Vibrant to a premature close with the words: "You're having a laugh."

This is intelligent technology used in a very unintellident way. It has bags of potential within advertising features and, used internally, the coding can open up all sorts of possibilities. But at the moment it is a loose cannon. It short-changes readers and is prone to farcical error.

My last contact with this was a discussion involving an ad campaign for BP and the prospect of them sponsoring words such as oil and emission. I was minded to be more civil this time and suggested that, even if I did lose my marbles and cave in, it would do the sponsor few favours to have their smiley pop-ups linked to words that usually make the news pages via stories involving sea birds killed by spillages or suicides involving exhaust pipes and lengths of hose.

On a lighter note, one motoring magazine editor told me he'd shamefully trialled it to find the sponsored word tyre successfully ignited a pop-up for remoulds. But the word rubber gave readers sex dolls.