A few days ago I was looking at the statistics for my website, and asked myself a question; should I start claiming ad revenue? After 30 seconds I already came to my conclusion, which was that no, I shouldn’t.
There are two reasons that I decided against ad revenue, and I quickly realised that these two reasons should also be true of news journalism:
1. Damages Credibility
Online advertising works by showing you things relating to whatever you are currently interested in.
For example, I write a lot of articles on avoiding scams or bad businesses, and target people searching for them to help deter them away from using these scams. If I included ads within these articles, there’s a good chance similar scams would advertise there, making it look like I endorse their products.
The same is true of news articles. For example, if there’s an article on insurance scams, there’s a good chance that there will be an advert for insurance within that same article.
Such as this article by The Independent about a pension scam containing ads for dodgy data collection websites:
2. Profiting off of tragedy is ethically bankrupt.
Journalists are meant to uphold society’s ethical values, and hold those that don’t accountable.
My website would only be talking about unethical business practices and I don’t feel comfortable advertising on those articles (because I think it’s profiting off of something that negatively affects others), but news journalists profit off of tragedy and death every day.
The shooting of Tamir Rice, for example, which is something that The Independent shouldn’t be profiting off of, is being used to generate advertising revenue:
The Independent (and every other news website) should have advertising blocked on these articles, but ads appear on the borders and bottom of the article.
The argument for adverts on news websites: “But if they don’t make advertising revenue, how will they survive?”
Just like every business, news websites need to make money. If your company is created around making money through dodgy business practices, though, it’s probably time to rethink how you generate revenue.
News websites can alter their advertising. For example, don’t allow dodgy adverts or potential scams on their articles. Or, block adverts on articles reporting acts of terrorism/tragedy, or ensure that a portion of the ad revenue goes towards helping the victims.
Alternatively they can create other revenue streams, such as through subscriptions, donations or by selling products.
Finally, cut costs, maybe don’t have an excessive amount of journalists reporting on anything possible to try and soak up the optimal amount of ad revenue.