Something else you might have missed if you, like a normal person, enjoyed the Memorial Day holiday without following online media industry news: Gawker found itself in the middle of an advertising-blurring-with-editorial controversy after our sales department and HBO pretended that an advertorial blog was a Gawker editorial property.
Gawker the editorial staff and Gawker the advertising staff don't tell each other much about what they're doing. And they shouldn't. The way the media economic engine works is that the eyeballs attracted by editorial can be sold by advertising in order to pay for the editorial. It's a nice little symbiotic circle, but the key ingredient for keeping it running is to keep a bright line between the ads and edit. And clearly that wasn't the case here.
Our ad team has struck a deal with HBO to feature posts from Bloodcopy, a blog created by HBO for their vampire show True Blood, as "sponsored posts" on Gawker.com and the other Gawker Media sites over the next few weeks. As with other sponsored posts, Gawker editors don't write them, they'll have a big box around them and clearly be labeled as advertising.
But on Friday a post went up on Bloodcopy announcing that it "will be officially under the Gawker umbrella," along with us, Gizmodo, Jezebel, etc. That post has since been deleted (though you can find it preserved here thanks to ASSME) (Update: and has risen like the undead), but it, along with an invite to a rooftop party to promote the sponsorship, was enough to convince people that this was all real. (Which it's not.) Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider had a good chunk of his weekend ruined by sorting everything out and is rightfully pissed.
Agency Spy has wondered if the lack of a mention of all this is a sign that Gawker's editors have been muzzled. We haven't, but anything we would say has already been said by others. Gawker Media has been taken to the media criticism woodshed over this one. What's advertising should be called advertising and what's edit should be called edit. It hurts both to blur the distinction.