Thursday, April 26, 2012

the advertising/editorial barrier, and the fall of happy mutants

Back when I used to work in magazines (and probably still now), there was always a lot of concern about keeping the borderline between editorial content and advertising very, very bright. A writer's, and magazine's, reputation with readers is at stake in the definition of that bright line. Once the readership senses that the editorial space is for sale along with the advertising space, it becomes very difficult to trust that the editorial opinions expressed or the editorial information presented are themselves not bought and paid for.

Now, I don't go there very often, but this morning I had a quick look at Boing Boing, one of the web's most popular blogs, and the home base for an awful lot of anti-artist, anti-copyright claptrap (in my opinion). Boing Boing has built its considerable following on a nerd-cool rebel stance to just about everything. When Boing Boing sees the man, Boing Boing opens up a can of down with the man, and hundreds of Happy Mutant commenters jump on board. Early on, one of their more frothing contributors identified corporate copyright-holders as the man, and, from there, factual commentary on copyright issues at Boing Boing took a long, steep dive into the pit of free-culture baffleslam.

I repeat, I don't go there very often, and that's mainly because I don't enjoy being called a liar and having my copyright-loving ways compared to extortion. That stuff can be amusing and all, but it gets old real fast. Still, when something's happening in the world of Canadian copyright -- and something quite good is happening in that world this week -- I know I will eventually find myself following a link to the Boing.

I was not disappointed. Amid the standard posts about how airport security is evil, how Internet security legislation will be the end of the world,  and how lightsaber cutlery is cool I found an attack on Canada's recent copyright-respecting developments. Check that... I was disappointed. Really? The free-culture attack-machine has become so tired they're now just republishing whole sections of Michael Geist's blog? Sheesh. Put some effort into it, people!

Imagine my confusion then, when I also came across this posting featuring a photo of the Chevy Volt... in the editorial section of the blog.

A Lifetime Car Lover Has Found His Match

Knowing that Chevrolet is a division of a very large corporation that holds all sorts of copyrights and patents, I made myself ready for the usual blistering accusations from the Boingers. Oh boy, the nerd-cool geniuses are really going to give it to General Motors for being the man, for playing a role in the recent global economic collapse, or for just not being Happy Mutants. Yeah, they are really gonna... wait a second... this is an ad.

Okay, they include a grayscale "Advertisement" disclaimer beneath the headline of the posting, but there can be no question that the purpose of designing a corporate advertisement to look almost exactly like all the other postings on the website is to fool the casual reader into thinking it is part of the editorial content.

Seems even Happy Mutants are for sale.

Free Culture! Looks like a nice car, though.

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