The Internet Content Coalition drafts a set of guidelines to separate advertising from content
This column appeared Dec. 16, 1998, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
Pick up a print magazine or newspaper and the rules are pretty simple: Ads over here, editorial over here. Sometimes the lines blur, but most often not.
On the Web, it gets murkier. Ads can appear anywhere on a Web page — sometimes smack in the middle of editorial content. Links? Well, there are links, and there are paid links. Buttons may transport you to a related story, or to a merchant. Advertising dollars may skew search engine results. Ads can be targeted to a specific story page, or to a particular user.
Rules of the road? It’s pretty much a crapshoot.