Because The Drill Down wants you to be armed and informed this holiday shopping season, we’ve put together our tech gift picks to add to your shopping list. We’ll start with gadget blogger Sukhjit, our guest during our recent Gift Guide episode.
UPDATED: 10/8/2010 – 2:07 p.m. CST
Digg removed a BP America sponsored submission from their front page after determining it “crossed the acceptable threshold” of negative community feedback, the company stated on its official Twitter account.
The submission — Offshore world looks good after Gulf oil spill, scientists say (with video) — attempted to downplay the ill effects of offshore drilling despite massive regional devastation from BP’s own drilling efforts earlier this year.
Many, like the masses over at Reddit, wondered why Digg would ever agree to a such blatant PR spin job by BP America. The company, however, said they do not review will allow anyone to submit content for this particular type of advertising, which uses a self-serve platform allowing anyone to artificially promotes a link of their choosing to the front page for a price.
“Digg accepts advertising from any company as long as the company and the content do not violate our Terms of Service (inappropriate language, illegal business such as gambling or porn, etc.) and as such, BP has initiated an ad campaign with Digg, similar to ad campaigns that they have already been running in recent months with Google, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post,” stated Chief Revenue Officer Chas Edwards in an e-mail response.
“Specifically, BP is currently running a ‘Digg Ad’ which is a promotion that every Digg user knows appears as the 3rd placement in the story list on our homepage,” he said.
A negative community reaction seems to be the only way to alert Digg of sponsored submissions that may violate Terms of Service. This feels like a highly volatile strategy for a website that has a reputation of power users who know how to “game the system” to hit the front page.
Edwards also added, “this ad is clearly marked ‘Sponsored by BP America’,” which can mean different things to different people.
In this case “sponsored” actually means “advertisement” — not “endorsement”, but personally I can understand the misinterpretation. At the very least, there is some confusion among users about the relationship between Digg and its ad clients.
UPDATE #1 - Digg’s Director of Communications Michele Husak contacted me to point out that the “Sponsored Submissions” are not on a self-serve platform and are also reviewed by their team prior to being published on the site.
So, apparently Digg was well aware of what it was doing when it reviewed and approved BP America’s “Sponsored Submission”, presumably because Digg didn’t see anything wrong BP promoting good press about the Gulf oil spill. The ad was yanked from the site based entirely on the negative reaction from the community.
Below is the E-mail response from Husak:
At the recent Disrupt SF event, TechCrunch announced it was being purchased by AOL for a rumored amount of $25 to $40 mil., which you think would be stated in the headline of the first article they published concerning this news.
Instead, we get a headline that reads: Tim Armstrong: We Got TechCrunch!, which honestly doesn’t really tell you much of anything. I’ll translate: Tim Armstrong is the CEO of AOL, “We” is AOL, “Got” means they purchased TechCrunch.
The only reason I went back and looked for this particular article at all was because someone mentioned that TechCrunch got bought by AOL casually at work. I mean, this is big news and I read TechCrunch fairly regularly so I thought I would have heard about it.
And I sort of did, at least the headline anyways. More specifically, I read it yesterday when the news was still fresh. I didn’t bother reading the post summary because I assumed it was some witty, unimportant article dealing with the whole “Super Angels” media circus editor Mike Arrington created last week.
I mean, “Tim Armstrong” is a very notable CEO, but left out of context it’s just another name. The whole damn headline is so vague and awful I wondered how on earth their editorial team allowed it to be published — considering the weight of the news itself.
Then I looked at who authored the post — Tim Armstrong himself.
So, it probably did irk (or would have irked) a few editors on the site, but seeing as changing it would risk pissing off the new boss of your organization, well I can see their logic in letting it slide.
The horrible thing about this particular post is that it unintentionally frames what people fear will happen to an AOL-TechCrunch. The site has standards, except for at certain times and for certain things, which apparently includes letting your new CEO think he’s recognized well enough to write a headline like “Tim Armstrong: We Got TechCrunch”.
Editorial Independence must start *after* that was posted.
In the eyes of TechCrunch Editor Michael Arrington, Digg’s Biggest Problem Is Its Users And Their Constant Opinions On Things. These opinions are essentially worthless even though they come from people who actually want to use a site like digg and participate in it’s community. His suggestion for how to improve digg is to assume that people will be satisfied with how digg decides you should use their site. End of story.
One group of users Arrington does think digg ought to pay attention to is the “community” of publishers [say, like... I dunno, the folks who run TechCrunch?] with features like automatic article submissions that feature prepackaged headlines, descriptions and categories.
I don’t have to really justify why this is an awful idea or explain why it’s dancing dangerously close to allowing digg to become an unnecessary service that mimics other popular sites (“Twitter for sharing news links”) — , but then again maybe I do: