It's been a strange summer for online content and Simon Owens at The Next Web asks an obvious question - should bloggers have control over ads or not?
It's a non-issue here, of course - every writer on Science 2.0 can simply choose not to carry ads on their work and no ads are shown and no money is paid in that case. Otherwise, the bulk of the revenue is paid out to writers based on traffic.
So when ad revenue is down, income per writer goes down, that's pretty simple economics - but Science 2.0 is a family and if I can get someone $20 per thousand views or $.05 per thousand views, the answer is obvious. I want to make sure people get money and an audience.
On other sites the situation is muddier because of contracts, and Owens discusses The Atlantic, where Science 2.0 fave Andrew Sullivan writes, along with the LA Times and Scienceblogs.com.
The situation at The Atlantic is different than the other two - they simply changed the site structure but Owens was interested in the meta conversation that occurred. We do the same thing here. I have no idea why anyone would write a comment or blog about a bug in the code (hey, it's complex here - we are not just some site slapping up Wordpress or Typepad, there is a lot more functionality under the hood than blogging sites) instead of just writing one of us, but people do. It's transparency.
The LA Times and Scienceblogs were both more egregious cases but the responses were radically different. The LA Times had advertorials dressed up as legitimate content whereas Scienceblogs simply added one corporate blog too many and sent bloggers over the tipping point but the response outside the LA Times was much stronger than the response from people inside, whereas in the case of Scienceblogs.com it was just the opposite - Scienceblogs writers swarmed over their own site.
What accounts for that? No one ever wants to say money matters but ... money matters. It's hard to say what contracts newer people at Scienceblogs had but some of the legacy people make a substantial amount blogging whereas at the LA Times they are full-on employees and so their ability to criticize their employer is limited by practicality.
If you don't make a lot of money writing, the ability to be ethical is easy.
The conflict between money and integrity will always be around. Scienceblogs people felt like any researcher at Pepsi was unethical yet they were completely ethical even though they both get paid. LA Times employees accept that revenue is crucial to keeping the doors open and in a bad economy more creative solutions have to be found - it just has to have limits.
Blogging took off as a movement because people want to be independent - and user-generated content works even in large networks like ours as long as people aren't told what to write and scientific legitimacy is not sold to anyone with a checkbook.
Should bloggers have control over ads?