Now that I have had my Tivo for a few months, I have been getting used to a life with less advertising. My ability to fast forward through commercials plus my use of software that blocks pop-up advertisements, has really limited the number of marketing messages that reach me. Of course, I am still waiting for the day when magazine publishers offer an advertisement-free subscription at a premium, which I would sign up for in an instant (think about that Glamor, Vanity Fair, Cooking Light, Real Simple, Renovation House, Allure, Marie Claire, People, In Style, Health and Better Homes and Gardens...it's really sick how many magazine subscriptions I have). And I know that I am being marketed to all the time, but it's subtle. I guess I had just become less aware of advertising overall.
But today, I clicked on a link to a Forbes article and saw something that really freaked me out...sponsored links. These are links in the body of the article (anyone else getting good at ignoring the ads on the sides?), complete with a marketing message delivered not only if you click the link, but also, a more abbreviated marketing message if you hover over the text. It looks like the advertisers have chosen compelling key words, but otherwise the text isn't particularly relevant to the ad.
Does this blur the line between objective journalism and advertising? Are we comfortable with the ads on the periphery, but offended when they cloud the “objective” content of our news? And even if the sponsored links have no impact on the content of the article itself, will this create an association between sponsorship and journalism that is unpalatable to the average reader? Or is this just plain old smart guerrilla marketing? The new banner ad?
Someone has figured out how to capitalize on our compulsive need to link-click. I'm sure that this has been going on for a while somewhere but it might be too much for the mainstream. I guess you can file this under: something we have to get used to.