Has the New York Times Run Afoul of the FTC's Endorsement Guides?

from the ethics,-ethics dept

Terry Heaton and Jeff Jarvis have commented recently on the conflicts of interest implicated by the adulatory coverage of the iPad in the New York Times and other media companies. They point first to the expectation that widespread adoption of the iPad will foster consumer adoption of a platform where media giants can show their content for a fee — thus enabling them to move more easily to a paywall revenue model.

Dan Gillmor shares these concerns, but notes an even more concrete conflict of interest — Apple’s advertising of the iPad consistently features a screenshot of the New York Times app, including of course the Times’ logo. Although Apple no doubt hopes to show that its device can be used to read the Times, surely attractive content to many of its target consumers, the image is also terrific advertising for the New York Times. Gillmor indicates that he has no doubt that Times’ reviewers truly believe the contents of their swooning coverage of the iPad, but argues that the benefit that the Times is receiving is a conflict of interest that ought to be overtly acknowledged and discussed by Times management. Yet, he reports, nobody from the Times has been willing to respond to his questions about the issue, such as whether the Times has received any compensation for the display of its logo on the iPad as shown in the ads. Gillmor raised these concerns a week ago, and the Times has yet to address publicly the possible conflict.

One may well wonder whether Apple or the Times has violated the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. The placement of the Times’ logo in Apple’s ads is surely a thing of great value, and readers of the Times’ reviews might well want to take the provision of free advertising to the Times into account in deciding whether to give full credence to the objectivity of the Times’ news reports and reviews of the product. The benefit of having such advertising could well be a “material connection” that has to be disclosed both by Apple and by the Times under section 255.5 of the FTC Guides, as illustrated by Example 7.

Surely, what’s good for bloggers who praise products ought to be good for the New York Times and professional journalists.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Modplan (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 12:30am

    I find it odd that iPad is advertised showing the web version of the site, not a native app the NY Times and co. so gladly hope will save their business.

     

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    Michael Long (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 1:18am

    Conspiracy

    Then again, perhaps the adulation heaped upon the iPad by the press, papers, magazines, web sites, and bloggers is... justified?

    Naw. Must be a conspiracy. (grin)

     

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      Chargone (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:55am

      Re: Conspiracy

      it is possible that it is neither, or a little bit of each and a whole lot of something else, mind you. fanboyism and wishful thinking go a long way all by themselves.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 3:19am

    I do swear, if I read one more thing about the Jesus Pad I will go on a killing spree.

    The Iphone was understandable, it was fundamentally different. From an end users experience it was game changing. But the Ipad.. not so much. Every time I look at one, or even think about one, I keep coming up against its limitations. In another 4-5 year of constant refinement, development, and hardware upgrades; it could be the product I keep reading about everywhere. But the reality of the product, and the thing I keep seeing talked about, are not the same thing.

    And the laughable thing, which no one seems to ever mention anywhere. The day an android table is released, no matter how rushed or god awful it is, it'll be closer to being what all these reviewers are gushing about. Why? Because while you can't really use Google Apps easily on an android phone, on a tablet, the amount of money and development Google has dropped into that department over the years comes into its own.

    I don't want one of those either.

     

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    ChronoFish (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 3:27am

    iPad is just a media viewer

    The iPad is *just* a media viewer which is why Hollywood and The Media love it.

    -CF

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:00am

    content is advertising

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:26am

    "One may well wonder whether Apple or the Times has violated the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    Makes no difference, these guidelines weren't intended to be enforced against big media giants and mainstream corporations, only against individuals and startups and small businesses.

     

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    Technopolitical (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:41am

    honest reviews , with good writing

    Any regular reader of the Times tech section , and esp Mr. Pogue reviews there ,,know they ain't for sale .

    "Looking at the iPad From Two Angles"
    By DAVID POGUE

    "Apple’s iPad seems to be hated by techies and loved by everyone else. Here are separate reviews for the two audiences"

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/technology/personaltech/01pogue.html

     

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      jsl4980 (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:20am

      Re: honest reviews , with good writing

      He is a very good writer, but just because he's a good writer doesn't mean his company isn't violating the FTC's rules.

      I think the point of this post is to point out how ridiculous the FTC's rules are and not to bash the NYT or the iPad.

       

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        Technopolitical (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re: honest reviews , with good writing

        "I think the point of this post is to point out how ridiculous the FTC's rules are and not to bash the NYT or the iPad."

        True, the rules a a little off-base.

        I guess just get sensitive about the times tech section before my morning coffee. (note to self ,, coffee first -- then read techdirt)

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:10am

      Re: honest reviews , with good writing

      Any regular reader of the Times tech section , and esp Mr. Pogue reviews there ,,know they ain't for sale .


      On the contrary, that article omits the biggest criticism by far among "techies": that the iPad is not meant to be capable of running any program by any developer, but only those apps approved by Apple in its notoriously inconsistent, anti-competitive, and at times downright absurd review process.

      The fact that the article links to Slashdot seems to suggest that the author would have at least, say, searched for iPad on that site and been made quite aware of this criticism, so I can't help but wonder whether this omission may have been disingenuous. A weak negative review followed by a strong (and twice as long) positive review is probably more effective advertising than just a positive review.

       

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    onikitsune, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    Does anyone see a connection?

    This is an issue that wouldn't have crossed my mind. If you're going to show a newspaper on the ipad you really only have two or three choices. Although I don't read the NYT, I recognize it's image and history identifies it as "The newspaper of record." Why wouldn't it be the showcase for news on the ipad?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:20am

    this is different from techdirt, where the masnick appears to play into his sponsors hands without indication? where the masnick writes positive articles about people who also write for this site? i see that ups is long gone from the site i guess their brown board stuff with mike is done and now they leave the building fast.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 8:26am

    Off the subject ... and watching the first shoe drop ...

    Steve Jobs did a great job hyping the iPad to the News Paper Industry. This is your salvation! This is your hope! This is what will turn things around for the Newspaper industry!

    and the second shoe drops ...

    Steve jobs main concern is the sale of hardware period. If he make money off subscriptions so be it. He isnt doing this to save the news papers he is hyping this to sell more iPads.

     

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    phil (profile), Apr 17th, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    Mr Pogue Mr Conflict of Interest

    Pogue and the NY Times have a history of overlooking conflicts of interest in his reviews. He's one of the most prolific publishers of manuals for Apple products, has early access to them, and profits off the sales of Apple products. He had to apologize for accepting a free hard drive repair worth $2000 after writing a column of praise about the repair service. While Pogue is a terrific writer, he's opinions are likely influenced by all of his other relationships.

     

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