Tuesday, March 27, 2012

USAT| An advertisement disguised as a 'refer'?

An eagle-eyed Gannett Blog reader noticed something unusual on USA Today's The Huddle football blog. Midway down a post today about recently acquired New York Jets player Tim Tebow, there's a link presented in the same format as one directing readers to more editorial content -- a "refer." It says:

GEAR UP: Purchase your Tebow Jets merchandise

Click on it, and you're taken to the USA Today Sports Store, which offers more than 100,000 sports products in its search box.

My reader says: "It's an ad that's disguised as a related link -- you know, the kind of thing they teach you not to do in a high school journalism class."

Here's a screenshot:

Should it be labeled as an advertisement? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. The web is full of contextual ads (thanks Google!). Does this equate to contextual advertising?

    Not a fan but also not sure it's unusual.

  2. Yes, you'd think it should be labeled as an ad. Easy enough to put [ad] at the end of the link.

    But not surprised it isn't. Just another part of the digital shell game, which also includes using vaguely worded headlines to gin up page views by drawing readers to stories that aren't local.

  3. Thou dost protest too much. What part of the word "purchase" does not make you think it is a link to BUY something?

    I see it no differently than having newpapers put ads on the sacred Front Page. Remember the firestorm about THAT? Today, the unadulterated front page is a rarity. That war is over.

    Advertising is not evil - it's your paycheck.

  4. Do you really believe there is any wall left between the business side and the news side of any newspaper in America???

  5. 5:10 makes a great point. I had a photo of a vandalized SUV that was rejected because the dealership was a major account and would be "bad publicity."

    The vandalism was newsworthy as it was graffiti in a public place relating to the environment, clearly a common, prescient topic.

    No way, José.

  6. Sure, it could say ad... Maybe it should. I think "purchase" gets the point across, though, too.

    By clicking I would expect to be able to buy.

  7. Journalism organizations don't drop ads disguised as something else right in the middle of news stories. Oh, I forgot: Gannett is now a "media and marketing solutions company." Well, this is certainly a solution of sorts.


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