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Monday, January 7, 2013

The AP Is Apparently Selling Its Tweets

Posted by on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 at 2:21 PM

If you're one of the Associated Press's 1.5 million Twitter followers, like me, then you may have noticed that one of those tweets today wasn't the typical breaking news story. The AP just tweeted an ad for Samsung:


The advertisement coming from the mouthpiece of a straight news outlet has earned replies such as, "@AP u can't be serious bro" and just "stahp." Buzzfeed also wrote about it.

It's not like mixing ads with editorial content is unusual. This here blog has ads embedded between certain posts, and the New York Times even runs little ads on the newspaper's front page. But in those cases, the presentation of the content is categorically different: The ads are in ad boxes and are designed like ads, while the articles have headlines and are written in the signature typeface. Perhaps that's why some people are turned off. It would be weird to see an NYT article about how totally swell Samsung products are—sandwiched among the articles above the fold, formatted in the same text and dimensions of other ones around it—even if it did begin with the words "sponsored article." I guess what makes this stand out is that this is in the same format as all the editorial content from AP's feed.

I'm not making some sort of ethical j'accuse here. (The Stranger sold sponsored articles for charity for years, Strangercrombie, but that was more of a blowout gimmick than a casual mix of reporting and ads.) And Twitter isn't a newspaper, the AP needs to pay someone to run its Twitter feed, and this is apparently one way to do it. Plus the AP is a great service—for free—so ads are to be expected. But even setting aside the traditional media boundaries between ads and editorial, this third-party subtweet, if we can call it that, might be annoying folks because it runs afoul of the follower/poster contract. It's a little bit like having your friend post an ad for Toyota on your Facebook wall or one company selling your email address so you can be spammed by another company. People don't like that because it's just not what they signed up for.

 

Comments (12) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
What, you thought they gave you twitter for free?

Next up: people who don't realize SLOG is paid for by The Stranger's ad content.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 7, 2013 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 2
@1) This wasn't a sponsored tweet by Twitter; it came directly from the AP's feed.
Posted by Dominic Holden on January 7, 2013 at 3:26 PM · Report this
4
People willingly talk about the products they buy.

Night and day.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on January 7, 2013 at 4:14 PM · Report this
5
Whatever did happen to Strangercrombie? Run out of donors?
Posted by floater on January 7, 2013 at 4:57 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 6
@5) Now it's the "Slog vs. whatever" charity auction, which we've done for NW Harvest the past couple years.
Posted by Dominic Holden on January 7, 2013 at 5:13 PM · Report this
7
When I see a tweet somebody paid to place somewhere that should contain only tweets from people of my choice, I block the sender. If I had a Firefox plugin that would do it automatically, I'd use it.
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on January 7, 2013 at 5:56 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
Maybe there's a Chrome setting that will turn it off?
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 7, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
9
On the other hand unfollowing a company on Twitter is pretty damn easy. Much easier than changing your email or unfriending someone. If the ads really bug you, just hit unfollow and go on with your life.

So longer as it's clear what's sponsored and what's not, and so long as it does not become obnoxious, I can't really see faulting news outlets for doing what they can to make a buck these days.
Posted by giffy on January 7, 2013 at 6:18 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 10
..the New York Times even runs little ads on the newspaper's front page. But in those cases, the presentation of the content is categorically different: The ads are in ad boxes and are designed like ads.
Twitter doesn't allow you to put little boxes around tweets. I'm not sure what you are expecting them to do.

Don't you think by preceding the ad by the all-capped "SPONSORED TWEET," the AP is displaying good faith rather than an intention to deceive?
Posted by Free Lunch on January 7, 2013 at 7:07 PM · Report this
Sandiai 11
I do the same thing as @7.
Posted by Sandiai on January 7, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this
12
@9: Giffy: Twitter's webapp shows paid-placement tweets from accounts other than those you follow. Unfollowing doesn't do it. You need to block them. If you're nice, you'll refrain from reporting them for spamming in the process.
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on January 7, 2013 at 10:24 PM · Report this
13
Adblock Plus *may* filter out the paid tweets. I think I started seeing them around the same time I started browsing Twitter on my phone, which definitely does not filter them out.
Posted by Phil M http://twitter.com/pmocek on January 7, 2013 at 10:26 PM · Report this

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