Reading Around on January 10th through January 17th

A few interesting links collected January 10th through January 17th:

  • New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers — Daily Intel – The argument for remaining free was based on the belief that is growing into an English-language global newspaper of record, with a vast audience — 20 million unique readers — that, Nisenholtz and others believed, would prove lucrative as web advertising matured. (The homepage, for example, has sold out on numerous occasions in the past year.) As other papers failed to survive the massive migration to the web, the Times would be the last man standing and emerge with even more readers. Going paid would capture more circulation revenue, but risk losing significant traffic and with it ad dollars.
  • The Climate Killers : Rolling Stone – The Climate Killers Meet the 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming: Warren Buffett
    Rupert Murdoch
    Jack Gerard, President, American Petroleum
    Rex Tillerson, CEO, ExxonMobil
    Sen. Mary Landrieu, Democrat, Louisiana
    Marc Morano, Founder, Climate Depot
    Sen. James Inhofe, Republican, Oklahoma
    David Ratcliffe, CEO, Southern Company
    Dick Gephardt, CEO, Gephardt Group
    George Will, Commentator, ABC
    Tom Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    Don Blankenship, CEO, Massey Energy
    Hack Scientist, Fred Singer, Retired physicist, University of Virginia
    Sen. John McCain, Republican, Arizona
    Rep. Joe Barton, Republican, Texas
    Charles and David Koch, CEO and Executive Vice President, Koch Industries
  • Everything That Ever Happens Is Good News For The Republicans, Corporate Media Insists – In the Senate, two Democrats will retire but six Republicans will join them. In the House, GOP retirements outpace Democrats 14 to 10.

This Establishment is Billy Dee Williams Approved

Colt 45, FTL

wonder if you have to buy a certain number of cases of Colt 45 to get this advertisement delivered to your establishment? Is it worth having to drink 48 cans of Colt 45? Probably not.

Pepsi Super Bowl Advertising Backlash

I know I should just ignore it, but for the record, this quote from Tim Calkins seems ridiculous to me.

No Coke, Pepsi

Pepsi’s break from the big game does carry a risk, branding experts say, because consumers have come to expect entertaining ads from the company.

“It’s a bit of a gamble to walk away from such an iconic event that has been such a big and critical part of their marketing program,” says Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill. “I think there could be a bit of backlash.”

[Click to continue reading Pepsi’s Drinks Will Sit Out the Super Bowl –]

Background, Pepsico is forgoing wasting lots of money on 2010 Super Bowl advertising1, and placing the budget instead in online marketing, and in so-called cause marketing

Under the program, Pepsi will award grant money for community projects proposed and selected by consumers, such as helping high-school students publish books to develop their writing skills. Pepsi says it has earmarked $20 million of its ad dollars for the grants next year.

Anyway, back to Professor Calkins: is he really claiming that because Pepsi isn’t going to spend $3,000,000 for a :30 2010 Super Bowl spot, that consumers are going to riot in the street, pitching cases of Pepsi One in Monroe Harbor? Consider me skeptical. Can you tell me, unprompted, which corporations advertised in Super Bowl 2009 and who didn’t? I doubt it. Even someone like myself who records the Super Bowl but then skips the actual game to watch the advertisements2 can’t recall, unprompted, who ran a spot and who didn’t. So what kind of backlash is Professor Calkins expecting?

  1. according to a TNS Media Intelligence chart included in this WSJ article, PepsiCo has spent $138,000,000 on Super Bowl advertising since 1987, plus another $53,000,000 advertising other PepsiCo brands like Sierra Mist []
  2. in theory anyway, we usually end up watching a few moments of the game itself, and only watching about 1/4 of the commercials []

The Nation versus Buzzflash

I received1 this same email solicitation from The Nation as Mark Karlin did. I’ve been a subscriber to The Nation since before there was such a thing as a browser, but I’ve been a reader of BuzzFlash for nearly their entire existence as well. The Nation’s attack seems a bit odd, why attack fellow progressives when there are so many other, juicier targets?

Lower Congress Parkway

In the meantime, we were a bit astonished to receive a mass solicitation e-mail on December 16 from Katrina vanden Heuvel (the editorial and marketing genius currently publishing “The Nation”) — whom we deeply admire — accusing BuzzFlash, among others, of running “Nation” stories “without contributing a penny to support and produce the journalism we invest in.”

We don’t mind being called out by name by people who have a different opinion, but it’s another story when a publication you deeply admire slanders you. The fact is that we post headline links to “The Nation” stories from which they derive more hits because of our size, and they then can charge more money to the likes of Coca Cola and Discover Card for running ads for those corporations. BuzzFlash has never reproduced, copied, nor violated the copyright of any “Nation” article, and many of “The Nation” writers, including Jeremy Scahill whom vanden Heuvel mentions, read BuzzFlash and have been interviewed by BuzzFlash.

In short, as far as BuzzFlash is concerned, Katrina vanden Heuvel is defaming our proud and unblemished heritage.

Furthermore, BuzzFlash is probably the largest non-bookstore seller of Nation Books on the Web and plans to continue selling Nation Books, just as we plan continuing linking to “Nation” articles.

Vanden Heuvel, with whom we have communicated positively and admiringly in our early years (including an interview we did and posted about her book “Dictionary of Republicanisms”; BuzzFlash also sold her tome, “Meltdown”), also should know that BuzzFlash has a staff, posts much of its own original content on our blog, runs advocacy campaigns such as Turn Off Fox, and has created a marketplace for progressive writers, musicians, actors, Fair Trade (living wage), and eco-products. Our staff has broken and brought to the forefront many a story over the years.

In fact, BuzzFlash has played an instrumental role in publicizing and distributing Nation Books such as “Blackwater” and “Republican Gomorrah” and many others. Katrina vanden Heuvel sits on the Board of the Nation Institute, which publishes Nation Books (through Perseus), and the Nation Institute is strongly affiliated with “The Nation.”

In short, when vanden Heuvel writes in her e-mail fundraising plea, “While I suspect you may have read Scahill or Roston or Jones — and other Nation investigations — on Common Dreams, Alternet or Buzzflash, please remember that these ‘aggregator’ websites use our work without contributing a penny to support and produce the journalism we invest in.”

I can’t speak for Common Dreams or Alternet, but vanden Heuvel is making the same argument that Rupert Murdoch does, which makes them a very odd couple indeed. Let’s see: BuzzFlash links directly to Nation articles, which drives up their “hits” and page views, which means that they can charge Coca Cola more money to greenwash itself! And BuzzFlash promotes “The Nation” writers and books through interviews.

[Click to continue reading In Desperation for Funds, “The Nation” Slanders BuzzFlash: Progressive Sites Need More Financial Support So This Doesn’t Happen |]

Daily News

I tried to find an example of a Scahill article lifted from The Nation, and could not find one. There are links like:

Who will mete out justice for America’s merchants of death? Jeremy Scahaill brilliantly analyzes Blackwater USA after their deadly shootout in the streets of Baghdad. This article will be printed in the Oct. 15th, 2007 edition of the Nation.

[Click to continue reading – Progressive News and Commentary with an Attitude | Fight Ignorance: Read BuzzFlash]

but that’s pretty clearly a link to The Nation’s website, and is no more than a teaser. BuzzFlash does post a lot of links to other places, but they don’t excerpt much of the original story; if a reader was interested in the topic, they would click through the link to read the rest at the original publisher.

There is even a FAQ entry about the practice:

Why just the links?

Our job is made much simpler and legally safer if we point you to the articles, instead of copying, formatting, and posting them to the BuzzFlash site.

So I don’t understand the slam. If The Nation wants to hide itself behind a paywall, just do it already. I hope they don’t, I like directing people who are not subscribers to read articles at the Nation website, but if Ms. Vanden Heuvel is worried about copyright theft, she should take action and stop pointing the finger at fellow travelers like BuzzFlash.

  1. and responded negatively to []

Reading Around on December 8th through December 9th

A few interesting links collected December 8th through December 9th:

  • News America Paid $29.5M in Mysterious Floorgraphics Acquisition | BNET Advertising Blog | BNET – The suit has a certain chutzpah to it. A source tells BNET that FGI had sales of less than $1 million. Many outside observers believed that at the time of the deal, FGI existed mostly to resolve its litigation against NAM, not as a functioning business. It’s hard to believe NAM thought it was buying a genuine business and not settling a lawsuit, which is essentially what NAM is arguing in its suit.
  • Stooper supports a family by cashing in erroneously discarded betting slips Boing Boing – (Image: OTB and me, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike image from swanksalot’s photostream)
  • The Spending Wars | The American Prospect – How did military spending become sacrosanct? – Excellent question: How did military spending become sacrosanct?”When Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, recently proposed a surtax that would pay for the Afghanistan War, the collective response from most of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle was, “Are you nuts?” Nancy Pelosi quickly put the kibosh on Obey’s “Share the Sacrifice Act,” and all talk of funding the war has been banished. Meanwhile, Democrats have spent untold hours debating how to finance health-care reform, all while Republicans carp about how doing so is just too darn expensive, what with our ever-climbing deficit.”

Reading Around on November 12th through November 14th

A few interesting links collected November 12th through November 14th:

  • More on Franken Amendment, elitism… at – In an effort to increase my ability to do this kind of reporting, I’ve exchanged contact information with several Democratic Press Secretaries. I’ve explained that I am a progressive news service and that my goal is to quench a thirst for timely progressive news… that it’s not enough to complain about Fox, Nedra Pickler, John Solomen or an inability to get your message out… that growing a progressive media requires cooperation from the news-makers that want to see the progressive media grow…

    Perhaps I’m too impatient… But the truth is that I’m having a really difficult time getting my calls returned from most offices.

    That’s something I’d understand if my web videos hadn’t been viewed nearly 500,000 times. But hell, it’s clear my work is reaching people, so it’s difficult for me not to see a certain form of elitism in the Democratic communications establishment.

  • Hullabaloo That Commie Bastard Al Franken Broke the Rules – Are those Senators not insensitive to rape victims? It’s quite obvious that they are.

    The good news is that the Republican senators have learned their lesson:

    Privately, GOP sources acknowledge that they failed to anticipate the political consequences of a “no” vote on the amendment. And several aides said that Republicans are engaged in an internal blame game about why they agreed to a roll-call vote on the measure, rather than a simple voice vote that would have allowed the opposing senators to duck criticism.

    Right, they forgot to hide their misogyny. (Man, you let your guard down for one minute and those bitchuz are all over you.)

  • There is no time to be tactful – For fans of Mad Men it will prove difficult to learn of the story behind ‘Peace, Little Girl’ – a brutal 60 second television spot which first aired on September 7, 1964 – and not imagine the offices of Sterling Cooper. The ad was conceived by agency Doyle Dane Bernbach on behalf of President Lyndon Johnson, in an effort to kill off Republican candidate Barry Goldwater’s march to the White House. DDB, desperate for success with their first political client, threw 40 of their best men at the campaign and chose to aim for the jugular by capitalising on comments Goldwater had previously made concerning nuclear weapons. The following letter was written by DDB co-founder and legendary ad-man Bill Bernbach just months before the election, at a time when Goldwater had managed to regain the public’s confidence and the DNC had started to drag their heels.
  • Blind Man’s Penis -John Trubee’s infamously great song:

    I got high last night on LSD My mind was beautiful, and I was free Warts loved my nipples because they are pink Vomit on me, baby Yeah Yeah Yeah.

    Stevie Wonder’s penis is erect because he’s blind
    It’s erect because he’s blind, it’s erect because he’s blind
    Stevie Wonder’s penis is erect because he’s blind
    It’s erect because he is blind

    Let’s make love under the stars and watch for UFOs
    And if little baby Martians come out of the UFOs
    You can fuck them
    Yeah Yeah Yeah.

    The zebra spilled its plastinia on bemis And the gelatin fingers oozed electric marbles Ramona’s titties died in hell And the Nazis want to kill everyone.

Reading Around on November 10th

Some additional reading November 10th from 12:11 to 20:55:

  • Autograph seeking: Why do people do this, anyway? — – What does a person actually do with an autograph once he has it?

    Frame it? Look, the same thing so-and-so writes in the checkout line at Target is on my wall, where a painting or a photo might be!

    Fondle it? Oh, that downward stroke is so sensual, like we would be together if only we had the chance.

    Tuck it away in hopes of someday selling it to one of the folks who would frame or fondle it? That may be as realistic as any answer, but it’s pretty cynical.

    I absolutely do not get autographs, especially in the broader sense of the term. Seeing them sought and signed strikes me as one of the most absurd rituals we have, a time waster on the magnitude of airport security or “The Price Is Right.”

  • Matthew Weiner Talks Mad Men Finale. An Update On His Film You Are Here. Plus, an Essay on Season Three | /Film – “I’ve read PG-13 fan discussions pertaining to whether Don and Peggy would ever bang. As Weiner states, it’s more of a brother-sister relationship, though one couldn’t help notice the similarities between Don promising to “spend the rest of my life trying to hire you,” and Henry Francis forever offering Betty everything she ever wanted in life. When Don tells Peggy, after visiting her at her semi-new apartment, that he doesn’t know if he can make it without her, the similarity to Henry’s line about eternity is obvious. If Draper really cared about saving his marriage, this is the type of selfless confession he’d have to make to Betty. Whether she would accept it (probably not) is beside the point.”
  • The Footnotes of Mad Men. – When they showed the shot of a Farmer Whitman arguing with the farm co-operative it looked like it could transposed over the 1885 Potato Eaters painting by Van Gogh.

Reading Around on November 9th through November 10th

A few interesting links collected November 9th through November 10th:

  • What’s Alan Watching?: Mad Men, “Shut the Door. Have a Seat”: We’re putting the band back together – “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” felt very much like a caper movie: the jazzy piano music, the intrigue, the plan unfolding perfectly as Lane walked in, got fired by St. John, and walked out happily, leaving a dumbfounded Moneypenny in his wake. Specifically, though, the episode felt like my favorite part of any caper (or other kind of ensemble adventure) movie: the gathering of the team. I have been, and always will be, a sucker for those sequences in movies like “Ocean’s Eleven,” “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Magnificent Seven” where the two leaders (there are always two guys at first, aren’t there?) travel around to assemble the perfect team of experts, explaining their value and using various tricks of persuasion along the way to get them on board.
  • The Watcher: Checking in with Conrad Hilton: ‘Mad Men’ actor Chelcie Ross speaks – I think [Conrad Hilton is] a zealot, and his zeal was focused on one particular area — his business. They don’t get into it on the show but Conrad Hilton’s private life was just about as rocky as Don’s. He left behind women, he worked all the time. But his zeal for what he’s doing relates to his business and his belief in God and America and what it can bring to the world. He feels that’s his mission — to bring America to the world, and he has bought into it 100 percent.
  • Mad Men Postmortem – The Daily Beast – It’s so unambiguous to me that this marriage is over, but the audience seems to cling to the idea that they should be together because we want to believe in those things. The marriage was not good. It was built on a lie and the lie was exposed. In the end, Don coming clean really damaged his relationship with her, more than the lying, her seeing who he actually was. I do believe when he says his mother was a 22-year-old prostitute that Betty is looking at something that is very far from what she had planned for herself… That was the whole story of the season. When Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) came on to her… a switch went off in her head of what was missing in her life, which was a true, romantic attachment. In the end, that combination with her gut feeling that something wasn’t right in her marriage and finding out the truth, they don’t belong together anymore, kids or not. You’ve got to take it pretty seriously when someone’s flying to Reno to get a divorce.
  • Mad Men Confronts Heaven and Hull: The Season 3 Finale: James Wolcott | Vanity Fair – Although this episode began with ominous echoes of The Godfather…it pedaled into an inspirational tale–an entrepreneurial vision of A Christmas Carol, where everyone comes together under one roof not out of love or family ties or sentimental obligation but out of mutual economic self-interest and buccaneer solidarity, sink or swim, eat or be eaten. “Well, it’s official,” toasts Roger after he, Don, Bert, and Pryce form their rebel alliance. “Friday, December 13, 1963: Four guys shot their own legs off.” The shark cunning entailed in starting up this new agency may seem cold, bloodless, and mercenary—an Ayn Rand mission minus the rhetorical bombast–but the collaborative enthusiasm of this breakout operation was brisk, invigorating: it gave you a lift being in an adult universe where talent and initiative were on the move and mediocrity left behind to fend for itself.
  • The Watcher: Sterling Coup: A terrific ending to ‘Mad Men’s’ season – ” I was just transfixed by Sally’s watchful brown eyes. She just kept looking from parent to parent, waiting for someone to tell her the truth. More effectively than anyone else has ever done, she called Don on his b.s. “You say things and you don’t mean them! You can’t just do that!”

    Later, we see Sally once again in front of the TV, her comforter, her friend. Carla and the TV are the most stable forces in Sally’s life. Truth be told, Carla being the biggest influence on Sally’s life would not be a bad thing at all.

    Later when Bobby was clinging to Don’s body like a little monkey, unwilling to let go, holding on tight with every limb — that was heartbreaking.”

  • Footnotes of Mad Men: Goodbye, All Our Pretty Horses | The Awl – Don’s revulsion at being sold off has to do both with his free-pony-roaming the-silvery-plains sense of individualism (DREAMY) and also McCann Erickson’s noxious reputation in the 1960s. ‘Giantism’ was their business ethos. Beginning in the early 1960s, McCann-Erickson, then known as Intergroup McCann-Erickson, gobbled up a mid-sized shops and retained them under one umbrella, but still forced them the compete for clients. This had an upside: two agencies could be under the McCann Erickson parent with one shop servicing American Airlines and the other shop servicing TWA. And a downside: the fear, at the time, was there would be leaks and betrayals between agencies. In 1964, Nestle left McCann-Erickson because they also serviced Carnation. Continental also withdrew their business because McCann was in bed with other airlines. “Bigness is an evil,” a Nestle executive explained, “that strains relationships that ten years ago were very warm and close.”
  • Eschaton – Evil Google – “As is occasionally pointed out when journalists and news business people complain that Google is stealing their content, if they don’t want Google to index their pages they can simply… tell Google not to index their pages by inserting a bit of code into them. What they really want Google to do is pay them for the privilege of making money from a derivative of their product, the way book reviewers always pay novelists, for example.”

View my photos at

Faux Ad Agency Execs

Almost amusingly brazen scheme: scammers pose as advertising account executives, and convince publishers to host fake advertisements for legitimate sounding corporations. The advertisements are embedded with malicious code and/or lead to fake websites, the goal is to collect names and addresses that can be resold, or worse. Dozens of high profile ad agencies have been targeted, as well as high profile websites like The New York Times, the Gawker Media group, and others who don’t want to publicly admit they’ve been duped.

crime plus 8 mailbox

The scam goes something like this: Someone posing as an agency executive or marketer approaches a publisher with a credible e-mail domain like or and asks for a quick turnaround campaign, often over a weekend. The ads then install malware or harvest user identities and continue to do so until the publisher figures it out. Often they don’t and the “advertiser” — sometimes part of a European organized-crime syndicate — will even pay for the campaign and run another.

What do the scammers want? Eyeballs, and installs, for the most part. Some are paid by the number of malware installs they can get; others by the number of identities harvested or number of computers than can be used remotely as part of a bot network. In all cases, the bigger and more trusted the site, the easier to make money. “It’s purely financially motivated,” said John Harrison, manger at security firm Symantec.

Gawker Media was one of the latest to fall victim, and ran a campaign last week that installed malware on visitors to Gawker sites for several days until the ads were discovered. The scammers were clever enough to credibly pose as employees of Spark SMG, a unit of Publicis Groupe, and had a detailed knowledge of Spark clients and repertoire of industry lingo convincing enough industry insiders to create a fake campaign for Suzuki across Gawker sites.

As is typical, they created a legitimate-looking e-mail address, (real Spark employees are, and called from a Chicago area code. Their ads only infected computers in intervals, so routine tests on the ads wouldn’t discover the malicious code.

Mr. Caruso said the scammers would have very likely paid for the campaign. Depending on the goal of the scam, it can be a very good business. Identities can be resold to organized crime; scare ads can harvest sales of phony anti-virus software. In the end, the goal is not to get caught, because when they do, Mr. Caruso said, “they have to change their name, change their LLC and come up with a new scam.”

[Click to continue reading Advertising: Latest Ad Scammers: Faux Ad Agency Execs – Advertising Age – Digital]

Crime Scene

Sterling Cooper never had to deal with this aspect of the modern world…

Marketers Still Prefer a Garbage Trail

Despite opting out of nearly every catalog I could think of1, we still receive mounds and mounds of paper trash from various retailers. Garbage cans full every week, most of which gets2 recycled, at least in our household. A shame, because so much energy is wasted attempting to stimulate sales of crap we don’t even need or want.

Rings of fire

Jeffrey Ball writes:

[The paper and catalog industry] is the third-largest energy user within the U.S. manufacturing sector, trailing the energy and chemicals industries, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. Making paper accounted for 2.4% of U.S. energy use in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Little data exist on how much energy is used specifically to make catalogs. A 1999 report by the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that sought to highlight catalogs’ impact, said they consumed more energy in one year than one million homes.

[Click to continue reading Marketers Still Prefer a Paper Trail –]

The damn things are not even very effective at stimulating sales:

only 1.3% of those catalogs generated a sale, the survey found. The average U.S. catalog retailer reported mailing about 21 million catalogs in 2007, sending out a new edition every 26 days

and for no good reason, the catalog paper is not even recycled paper, by and large, meaning virgin lumber is sacrificed for 98.7% of the virgin lumber to end up in a trash can, unopened, unread, unwanted.

The paper typically used in catalogs contains about 10% recycled content, according to industry consultant RISI. That is far less than paper in general, which typically contains about 30% recycled content. For newspapers, a bigger paper user than catalogs, the amount of recycled content is roughly 40%.

Bent Towards Golden Shade Light

Pretty sad statistics.

Catalog Choice wants to update the mindset of catalog retailers, but the industry is reluctant to change long-established practices:

Chuck Teller, executive director of Catalog Choice, is working on an idea that could wean catalog retailers away from paper-based marketing without hurting their businesses. His “iCatalog” aims to adapt the accessibility of a paper catalog to the digital realm. Using an online widget that consumers can install on a personal Web page or social-networking site, Catalog Choice continually updates and customizes retailers’ product selections.

Still, so far there are widgets available for only a few dozen titles. The National Directory of Catalogs, meanwhile, lists 12,524 catalogs, the vast majority of which include a paper version. That directory runs to 1,266 pages.

Occasion All Our Own

  1. using Catalog Choice, as blogged about here []
  2. allegedly []

Reading Around on October 14th through October 15th

A few interesting links collected October 14th through October 15th:

  • Today’s Weather: Dreary – Chicagoist – Another dark, damp, dank, dreary day for Chicago. Off and on rain showers coupled with highs in the mid 40s will give us an unseasonable chill for mid-October. If there’s any glimmer of hope, it’s that by Monday we could crack 70 degrees once more. Still, those warmer summer days are a distant memory far too soon. We dig the autumn, but were hoping for a gentler transition
  • Slightly Beyond the Shore

  • My First Look At Radio Free Albemuth – The Movie

    About a month ago I had the opportunity to drive down to LA to see a screening of Radio Free Albemuth with director John Alan Simon. Pretty cool, I know. John wanted me to take a look at the current cut of the film before any further changes are ‘locked out’ and they begin the painstaking work of mixing and cleaning up the sound, correcting the color-timing, tweaking the special effects, and putting on the final polish.

    I really enjoyed the movie and think most Dick-heads are also going to like this film 1) it’s an independent release, so it’s free of dodgy chairs, high-speed chases, fight scenes, gun battles or Keanu, Tom, Nick, Arnold, or any other Scientologist; 2) and best of all, it’s very true to the book. While writer/director John Alan Simon was forced to cut some of the material from the novel, I think he did so in a very effective and sensitive way.

  • Mad About Mad Men – The Atlantic(November 2009) – The cognoscenti, though, have largely ignored this quiet virtue while extolling what are really the show’s considerable flaws. Ah, the media juggernaut. If Mad Men were half as good as the hype would have it, the show would be one of the best ever produced for American television. It’s both.

The FTC and the Unreasonable Case of Disclosure

The blogosphere is starting to think about the new FTC regulations we mentioned yesterday. Case in point, Nine reasons why the rules will solve no problem, and just cause headaches:

I'm With Stupid

However, I don’t believe that the new FTC guidelines actually help to further the goals of transparency but rather, instead, the new rules will be rife with abuse and misuse and uneven application. Here’s why:

1. Adversely affects smaller blogs. Small blogs like ours do not have editors. We don’t get paid to review and what we do is truly a labor of love. Yes, we are starting to host ads but we cannot afford a full time editor for our reviews. Blogs without editorial staffs will be subject to the new rules while blogs and mainstream publications, regardless of other issues and relationships, will not. Let me state it this way: the blogs with the highest earning capacity will likely be exempt while the blogs with the lowest earning capacity will not. I found it fascinating that Richard Cleland of the Bureau of Consumer Protection said this:

Cleland said that a disclosure was necessary when it came to an individual blogger, particularly one who is laboring for free. A paid reviewer was in the clear because money was transferred from an institution to the reviewer, and the reviewer was obligated to dispense with the product. I wondered if Cleland was aware of how many paid reviewers held onto their swag.

“I expect that when I read my local newspaper, I may expect that the reviewer got paid,” said Cleland. “His job is to be paid to do reviews. Your economic model is the advertising on the side.”

From Cleland’s standpoint, because the reviewer is an individual, the product becomes “compensation.”

[Click to continue reading The FTC and the Unreasonable Case of Disclosure | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary]

and Number 7, especially as it pertains to Twitter is a bit of a joke:

Eliminating any relationships. § 255.5 requires disclosure of “material connections”.

When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.

I’m not sure what this pertains to. I have attended luncheons, parties with publishers. Do I need to explain each and every piece of swag I am ever given? Could I even possibly remember every pen and mint tin I picked up? I doubt it.

It’s important to note that in various interviews around the web and in the Guide itself, the FTC contemplates that any comment, tweet, post on a facebook page, participation on a message board, must be accompanied by the relevant disclosure.

As for Twitter, the FTC isn’t letting you get a pass with the excuse that 140 characters–Twitter’s famous text limit–is simply too short. “There are ways to abbreviate a disclosure that fit within 140 characters,” Cleland said. “You may have to say a little bit of something else, but if you can’t make the disclosure, you can’t make the ad.”

I do wonder how long it will take before this policy is attempted to be enforced, and how long before a high-profile case goes before the courts. Do I have to hire an editor now? An advertising manager so there is a wall between “content” and “advertising”? How come celebrity magazines1 are seemingly exempt from the FTC? If I read another positive review about a Michael Bay film, I may ask the FTC to investigate.

  1. print and television []

FTC Says Bloggers Must Disclose Payments

Blog rules have, apparently, changed.

Mictorate Surrogate

– Blogger or flogger? The Federal Trade Commission is taking a tougher line on bloggers who accept cash or gifts to tout a company’s products or services.

Under revised rules announced Monday, the FTC will require bloggers and celebrities to clearly state when they receive cash or “payment in kind” for endorsing a company’s products or services.

The changes, adopted on a 4-0 vote, are the first revisions to federal guidelines on endorsements and testimonial advertising since 1980.

Connections between advertisers and endorsers must be disclosed under the revised guidelines. The FTC said the stricter disclosure will apply to comments on talk shows, blog posts and on social media as well as in traditional advertisements.

[Click to continue reading FTC Says Bloggers Must Disclose Payments –]

But this policy, as reported here and in a similar NYT article, is pretty vague as to terms and definitions. How will it be enforced? Who qualifies as a blogger? Does this policy include Yelp and their pay-to-play model?

Or does the policy include low trafficked sites like your humble host? Does’s mildly dirty lucre qualify as “receiving cash”? Amazon pays me approximately 3% of the pre-tax price of any product that you purchase through a B12 Partners affiliate link1, which reaches peaks of nearly $30 some months, but more frequently is in the single digits. Google ads, over on the sidebar, or possibly inserted into your RSS feed or daily email, pay me a few cents for every click-through, which also adds a few dollars to my bank account every month. I pay more for my website than I make, but I’m not doing it for money, I’m doing it for other2 reasons.

Other than that, B12 Solipsism has not received squat from any product I’ve mentioned, any person I’ve praised or ridiculed, or any event I’ve mentioned. Now and again, someone will suggest a topic to me, but most of the time, I just ignore the PR pitch. Perhaps if there was financial compensation attached to the pitch, or even free tickets, I might pay attention.

Or Else

Besides B12, is the new ruling akin to what television product placement law is? Which is what again? Seem to see a lot of product placement in traditional media, how is a consumer to know which news magazines are running paid-for content, and which are not? How about Congressional leaders? Can the FTC or comparable governmental agency place disclaimers, perhaps in a forehead tattoo form, on health industry shills like Max Baucus for instance?

The FTC Guide, as currently written, seems woefully unenforced. Nearly all of the Sunday Talking Head shows seem to skirt the endorsement guidelines. Will that change too?

For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) which message consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group or institution.

(c) For purposes of this part, the term product includes any product, service, company or industry.

(d) For purposes of this part, an expert is an individual, group or institution possessing, as a result of experience, study or training, knowledge of a particular subject, which knowledge is superior to that generally acquired by ordinary individuals.


Live High aka High Life

Anyway, we’ll probably read more about this in the future, but B12 Solipsism readers can sleep easy tonight knowing that we are not paid blogger shills3 ,4 ,5

  1. such as the images of books-recently-purchased residing on the blog sidebar []
  2. heretofore unknown []
  3. though, Corporate America, our lines of communication are open, hint, hint []
  4. no, not really, we’ll probably just make fun of you. []
  5. but maybe not, if the price is right! []

Corporate Interests vs Public Interests

Very rarely does corporate interest and public interst intersect, and as we mentioned previously, especially not in the laughably anti-consumer food industry initiative called Smart Choices. The backlash has been strong enough that the American Diabetes Association has requested their name be removed from the Smart Choices website, and so has Tufts University, home of the corrupt Dean, Eileen Kennedy.

Watermelon Break

A new program headed by the dean of Tufts’ nutrition school that grades the health value of food products has drawn severe criticism for its ties to members of the food industry and for endorsing what many experts call unhealthy eating choices. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Dean Eileen Kennedy leads the Smart Choices program, which denotes approved foods with a green checkmark which appears on the foods’ packages.

Criticism of the program has focused on its inclusion of a number of popular, sugary cereals, like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops.

Mike Adams, editor of the online Natural News Network, has called the Smart Choices program a “marketing fraud.”

“You’d have to be deeply misinformed about nutritional basics to think that a processed breakfast cereal made of 41% sugar, partially-hydrogenated oils and artificial coloring chemicals is a ‘smart choice’ for any child,” Adams wrote in a Sept. 22 article for the Natural News Network, a non-profit information source that draws on Web sites covering health and environmental issues.
“A more appropriate label might be ‘Diabetes Choices’ or ‘Obesity Choices,’ but certainly not ‘Smart Choices,’” Adams wrote. His office declined to comment for this article.

Tufts has requested that Smart Choices not list Kennedy’s academic title as dean of the Friedman School on the program’s Web site, Christine Fennelly, Tufts’ director of public relations for the health sciences campuses, said in an e-mail to the Daily.

[Click to continue reading Tufts Daily – Dean criticized for program’s ties to interest groups]

Reading Around on September 29th

Some additional reading September 29th from 11:32 to 20:54: