The Times Picayune in New Orleans has a deal with some of the Saints star players. The players, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, will mention the NOLA.com website and will be paid for the mention.
A reporter called me for comment:
The unusual arrangement between Advance Digital and the players highlights the tremendous advertising potential of the popular social networking site as well as the ethical concerns media companies face in using it as a promotional vehicle.
Advance Digital is the internet arm of Advance Publications Inc., which owns The Times-Picayune. Advance Digital also is the parent company of NOLA.com.
“The intention here is to promote a new product, the Saints community on NOLA.com,” said John Hassell, vice president of content for Advance Digital. “It’s a new kind of space and a new kind of marketing for that space.”
The idea of paying players to promote the news site raised a red flag for media ethics educators who say it can create the appearance of an inappropriate relationship between reporters and the subjects they cover.
“On its face, that is an obvious conflict of interest,” said Al Tompkins, senior faculty for broadcasting and online at The Poynter Institute and the co-author of four editions of a “Newsroom Ethics” workbook. “The problem is you’re creating a dual relationship with the very people you’re covering.” The Poynter Institute is a school for practicing journalists.