May 17, 2007

Money and Thought

Ashok makes an interesting argument on his blog that money taints the freedom of thought. I have often wondered about what advertising would do to this blog- apart from earn me a miniscule amount of money- and personally decided a while ago to reject it- though do think occasionally of the Amazon ads that one can do when reviewing a product. I do think that Ashok has a point in part- and I want to clarify my thinking on this because I do think it is interesting and important.

There are two ways in which adverts can effect one's writing. The first is that they can lead to bias in what one says- so that one becomes less of an advocate for one's own views and more of an advocate for another group's views. Say for instance I ran adverts for the Australian National Party on my blog- I'm not sure that it would be a good thing for them or me if beside that I ran stories attacking them. Running their adverts would condition the kind of blog that I could have- it would govern to some extent what I could say- and therefore anyone reading this blog could rightly assume that they were not going to find upon it an unbiassed analysis of that party.

The second way that adverts effect the stance of a blog is more interesting though because it brings to my mind a key question- the relationship between a blog and its audience. Ashok's blog (I hope he won't mind me saying this) is a rather high minded affair- it is a blog which deals with intellectual issues in an honest way- and hence Ashok often writes posts which require a lot of thought- they require one to test out one's ideas. This blog aims but fails to do similar things. I think one of the things that adverts bring is a desire for an audience. My own feeling is that Westminster Wisdom has an audience- people who read it often, I know some of them, and frequent commenters- I would love to have an audience that was numbered in the millions not the hundreds but I don't and personally I think that I would not like to sacrafice my way of writing, the topics I'm interested in for the sake of advertising revenue. In order to make ads worthwhile I would have to change my focus- and I won't.

That's for a last reason- that this blog is really a way for me to have fun. Heated disputes will happen often- Lord Nazh is a frequent and welcome disputer for instance who has been keeping the political debate going here over the last couple of days. But really this blog centrally is a place for me to talk about what I'm interested in- and that happens to be the subjects that are most discussed here- film, history etc- if I were to begin earning money from it, this blog would cease to be fun, and the parameters of what I wrote would be deformed by a desire to maximise traffic. It isn't that adverts would subvert my political views, but they would subvert the purpose of the blog- in that sense I agree with Ashok I would have lost something- a space to think aloud about what interests me, without regard to whether anyone's listening- though I hope you are and what I have to say interests you- whether if its only 4 people or 40 or even 400 or 400000 doesn't matter to me and that's something I value.


Vino S said...

I agree that advertising can have an impact on editorial freedom. In general, though, I think most media outlets in Britain avoid this by having a _range_ of advertisers.

However, i think the most pressing concern is that, because of the need to attract advertiser money, broadcasters focus on ratings and newspapers on circulation. This encourages sensationalism and can debase things.

ashok karra said...

Enjoyed this post thoroughly.

I was just curious how much a desire for an audience springs from advertising. Doesn't the fact we talk about political matters alone seem to necessitate a quality audience (which could be defined as an audience that has quantity to some degree)?

Also, I don't think by blogging we'll ever reach the millions. The medium itself designates whatever calls itself a "blog" is already "niche." The perception that something is niche drives people away: think about how I might react if someone told me their blog was about American Idol.

There's an older post on Irate Nation, I forget where it is, where I said something like "if one isn't heard in a democracy, one can't be said to be free." To what degree is writing for an audience the most basic exercise of democratic right?

Lord Nazh said...


I'd be here no matter if you had advertising or not :)