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Can “Issues Advertising” be leveraged to support new forms of issues journalism? (Bart Preecs convener) Recorder: Michael Bradbury, REALscience

Bart Preecs ExxonMobil buys an ad to tell you how great they are for the environment. In print there are page limitations. Those barriers go away online. Add video, etc. and make it as rich as advertiser wants as long as the journalist provides links along side and provide alternative point of view.

Idea: if you give us the money you make your case but know there will be a contravening POV along side it for balance.

Pitch to Exxon: You want to spend $$ getting your POV across, change in law, etc. you can control by buying full page ad. But if you give $$ to us you can do whatever and reach a diff. audience.

Ex. Investment ads for countries, cities, etc.

Leverage the momentum and power of big corps who are going to spend the money anyway. But let’s get them to spend it to support alt point of view.

Sandy Frost SPJ presentation on reaching LGBT audiences—demo with money. Ads with respect will make everyone happy

Don Smith That’s happening already…sort of. Environmental issues, health or other topic. The complaint from advertisers is that there aren’t enough places to put the ads. There aren’t enough places with enough page views to make a buy worthwhile to big corps.

Seattle company—packaging journalism and aggregate—Lion New Media (don has details) We don’t know it will work yet. Probs with tech but not advertisers.

13 million page views isn’t enough.

What’s the threshold?

Don I don’t know but for general news site, the niche (environment as ex. Is only piece of homepage views)

Journalists will work on spec. Advantage: syndicated for you. So you can get $300 but from each of 20 markets.

News cooperatives—LA has one working in specific topics—travel has a big market for content compared to other areas. The market is the advertisers

Broadcasters not interested in serious content. Has to be fun and with flair.

Lindsay Toler

Outsider so doesn’t know paradigm. Is there a way to get corps to fund journalists to engage communities, sponsor event and push issues?

Don Smith No one solution will pay for good journalism

Issue with issues: as a nonprofit you have to be careful about taking money from political advertisers.

Sandy I’m an expert on this. It must be disclosed. You can hire lobbyists. You can take position on issues but not candidates.

Amy Clark IRS sees it differently and won’t put it on paper until there is case law to support it

Sandy New 990 really spells it out. There are stricter reporting requirements for political activity.


If you are looking for money from public you have to be 501c3 and if you are going nonprofit then you have to be careful about issues advertising. If it looks like a political candidate’s platform then there’s a problem.

Bart What about healthcare?

Don I think that’s okay. If for example in the last mayoral election the position was against the viaduct, you might have a bigger problem b/c it’s associated with a candidate even though the decision was already decided. If you do that you are just asking for a challenge.

Amy WA Low Income Housing Alliance—we like purchasing ads on smaller web sites—publicola. If we were transportaion or environmental nonprofit, we’d stay away from those things during elections. What is sustainable community? We put it in more broad general way so we don’t get in trouble.

Don Big advertisers won’t touch politics or religion. Or big, hot issues…like healthcare.

Bart If you think public option is bad idea then you want to put it somewhere. Big groups, trade associations, unions, etc.

Sandy Brainstorm comes from okay where are my readers and what do they want?

Bart Craft a content strategy to leverage the needs of these corps to spend money with you rather than others. They are going to spend it anyway.

There is huge volume of lobbying. I know NAB, Steve Largent’s cell phone group etc are spending millions a month to work their magic. Why not put position on the record?

Don Where’s the story? Somehow you have to get eyeballs on the story.

Sandy Look at where political contributions come from and target them.

Bart Get the audience first.

Amy A nonprofit might buy a billboard that no one touch because it’s cheaper. We’ll use our networks to drive traffic there.

Michael Why is there not more public pushback? CNN has gutted their science department, and yet Exxon is all over that channel with advocacy advertising. They’re making tons of money, running both sides of the issue, but they won’t do journalism on science or the environment. How can we create a network or aggregate better to get those pageview numbers up?

Don That’s underway. There’s a real interest in science. Everyone in the group has to be real high-end journalists.

Sandy This might sound hokey…it comes down to children and literacy. When you reach the kids then you reach the parents. It’s about community service. Develop project to leverage public service and get eyeballs and promotion.

Bart It goes against the grain of the journalist.

Don Now we have to aggregate ourselves into groups. Hyperlocal is doing well because they have the eyeballs. It took Tracy 5 years to hit 1 million page views a month. It takes time.

Me Who’s the we?

Michael Koontz,

Me I’m a one-man brand

Don We have the billboard but we need the highway. We have the Burma Shave signs now we need the road

Sandy What can we learn from porn? They’re making money hand over fist. She is investigating the Shriners and needs Larry Flint to have her back. How can we identify what works there and capitalize on it? Immediate gratification.

John Spady I have trouble buying into instant gratification.

Bart The ability to reflect and analyze

John I don’t want to give them soda online.

Sandy It’s a horrific way to think but how else do you grab the readers? We don’t have to media prostitutes. I’m not selling out. When Dan Brown’s book came out I could have gone down the masonry conspiracy track but didn’t.

John I don’t want to have to go through ad company and measure clicks. I just look at Google Analytics. As a user, I see the dancing mortgages and I don’t click.

Bart You may need something so glitzy to capture the audience

John Could we have a page devoted to advertising.

Amy Salon.com did that for a while…15 second page loading ad.

Bart My goal is to reimagine the dividing line between content and ad. Ad small. Content big. The infomercial model. If that allows a journalist to eat, then that’s okay.

Sandy Make it quick and dirty.

Bart I would be wiling to give informercial space on a web site to fund something…like Dupont sponsoring a toxic chemical list or something.

Sandy Viagra. I’m horrified by the ED ads but they are paying big bucks.

John Are there other paradigms besides traditional click advertising.

Me Sponsoring categories on RS

Sandy Transformative media. Quiz. Poll. Hook up with programmer and do a game. For the advertisers.

Me Groundspeak example

John Movie “9”—posters of barcodes for people to scan. It takes you somewhere online.

Sandy It goes back to immediate gratification.

Bart That gets out of the box. Don is trying to aggregate multiple sources.

Sandy Untapped market—seniors.

Me Book club idea

Sandy Get ahold of the IT guy or board member.

Bart If you (to Amy) could spend time IDing the enemy of my enemy? That’s the synergy I look for. There are well funded orgs working behind the scenes. There’s an opportunity. Let them make the case against rent control (rental housing association). They go quietly behind the scenes. And Building Industry Association.

Nate Kommers (Sightline) They don’t want to just make their case. They want to persuade.

Sandy How do get people without grassroots when they want their Jimmy Chu’s on eBay?

Amy You are underestimating the public. We all come into contact with those things but I don’t believe the only thing people in this country care about is making purchases.

Me I agree.

Bart WE are talking about the 10-20 % who care about this and don’t have tools. They’ll bring the rest of us along.

Nate That’s what we are trying to do. We have talent and funding to do that. We are nonprofit so all operations are funded through donations. We would be unlikely to accept ads b/c it would be diff to convince board and staff to support them.

But if it generates revenue, it could be looked at. But I’m skeptical that the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages.

Michael There are a lot of perceptions out there driven by advertisers that people are just interested in consuming. I would like to be able to choose my advertising. There are many sleazy operations, and there are few ways to create a good revenue stream. I’d rather have fewer advertisers and forgo income so as not to confuse people. I”ve had a lot of conversations with nonprofits but they won’t spend the money. Even organizations that would be a perfect fit.

Bart In media marketing, only issues advertising is growing, among other kinds of advertising. A lot that was “settled” is now on the table. Ex. Of cap and trade, financial reform, and healthcare. They are big, complicated issues that rattle cages. The money is going toward direct ads, lobbying, etc.

Nate What sites are getting those ads?

Me Repower America

Amy What’s the problem.

Me Too small. Too niche

Nate The long tail strategy

Bart The key is aggregation

Sandy Wal-Mart phenomenon—it could be that the big guys who control the numbers and who are in position to deny…

Bart No the Internet isn’t going to allow it. We are closer to than we were to get there. We need to package it in the right way and talk to the right people.