AT&T Takes Its Football Ad Money And Goes Home

from the yoink! dept

The business world, and tech companies in particular, have a tenuous relationship with the press. While they rely on it to generate hype, they obivously try to control the message -- and can often react badly when publications get "off message", such as when Google refused to talk to CNet for a year. AT&T's allegedly decided to retaliate even further against the San Francisco Chronicle, yanking its $5 million annual ad spend from the paper after receiving some unfavorable (but accurate, as John Battelle notes) coverage from a columnist. It smacks not just of childish, petulant retribution, but almost of blackmail, forcing a newspaper to weigh its responsibility to it readers against a significant chunk of ad revenues. AT&T isn't talking of course, deciding to clam up rather than face the issue -- and the issues the columnist has raised. Maybe the reality's just that with all its customers only paying for half their internet connections, AT&T just can't afford to buy the ad space any more?
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  • identicon
    bobdog, 7 Feb 2006 @ 9:07am

    AT&T and the SF Chrommical

    I don't buy your extortion argument. Why is this any different than dumping an underperforming vendor if better performance can be found elsewhere? People vote with their feet, and that's the way it should be. Natural selection at its finest.

    I had an unsatisfactory experience with American Airlines 15 years ago, and I haven't flown AA since. I don't hate them; I just have other alternatives that I prefer. I'm not about to keep throwing money at a vendor that treats me badly, nor should AT&T.

    What have I missed here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Matthew, 7 Feb 2006 @ 9:15am

      Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

      The bad experience didn't include a news flash about how you were an obnoxious guest, drunk and sexually abused the flight attendants did it?

      I'd hope not anyway. But the story seems to be that the newpaper said "Look at what ATT is doing!" And ATT replied by revoking its contribution to the budget.

      It's not that cut & dry I'm sure, but it does lean towards extortion by stating -- in a veiled manner at least -- don't report bad things about us or you won't eat this month.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bobdog, 7 Feb 2006 @ 9:30am

        Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

        Where the hell did that come from? Do you often insult people you don't know? Flame wars are stupid, and I won't play.

        AT&T is free to spend its advertising budget any way they see fit, whether the bad press is true or not (and it may be). You can't be asserting that they're obligated to continue advertising at the Chronicle, no matter what? You may disagree with AT&T over this issue -- so go elsewhere. But don't try and tell a company how they must spend their advertising budget. Right or wrong, it's their money.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Tyshaun, 7 Feb 2006 @ 9:54am

          Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

          Where the hell did that come from? Do you often insult people you don't know? Flame wars are stupid, and I won't play. AT&T is free to spend its advertising budget any way they see fit, whether the bad press is true or not (and it may be). You can't be asserting that they're obligated to continue advertising at the Chronicle, no matter what? You may disagree with AT&T over this issue -- so go elsewhere. But don't try and tell a company how they must spend their advertising budget. Right or wrong, it's their money.

          I don't think Mathew was trying to flame you bobdog, just making a point, albeit in a less than obvious way.

          Anyhow, bobdog, you're right, I don't see anything wrong with it. I do see the general, and correct, assertion that news articles are supposed to report the news, but that in no way obligates advertisers to like the news presented. In a way, advertising is a form of "support" for the entity being paid to advertise. There is clearly a historical precedent for advertisers choosing to support institutions that give them a favorable light, or are inline with their corporate image (Gatorade advertising heavily at sporting events is an example). Let's say that a corporation, Gatorade, puts down a chunk of money to advertise during a football game, and one of the announcers says how horrible Gatorade tastes, I would expect that Gatorade would pull it's ad money the next day because their product is no longer being seen in a positive light and why would they continue to support an institution that is doing that?

          In the end, freedom of the press, yes, but always remember that freedom isn't free and some stories may end up loosing ad revenue.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Kap, 7 Feb 2006 @ 10:06am

          Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

          I dont believe he was flaming just giving a simular scenario to apply to your AA relationship.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      FindYodaWinCash, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:37am

      Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

      Unlike your American Airlines example BobDog, we are talking here about the flow of information. When advertisers use their clout to obscure facts about their misdeeds this is an abuse of the power of money.

      The "its their money" argument does not negate the fact that we as a society do put moral restrictions on what it is possible to buy and sell. Prostituition or drugs for example. What would you think of a purchaser of kiddie porn who said it was "his money"?

      Now I'm not saying that this is the equivalent of kiddie porn, merely making the argument that restrictions on what can be bought and sold is good thing sometimes. Please take this argument in that context.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      hexjones, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:37am

      Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

      "I don't buy your extortion argument. Why is this any different than dumping an underperforming vendor if better performance can be found elsewhere? People vote with their feet, and that's the way it should be. Natural selection at its finest. "

      In this case, the newspaper is not underperforming. It is doing what news newsmedia is supposed to do: publish unbiased (by advertiser or politically) news and editorial. AT&T is attempting to compromise that sacred American institution.

      That is not "better performance".

      Also, this has nothing to do with natural selection. Economic darwinism, maybe.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        locoHost, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:50am

        Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

        You're all mostly wrong. AT&T certainly isn't blackmailing or extorting the paper merely by pulling their ads. Of course they have the right to spend their ad dollars anywhere they wish. However... If the exact reason they -are pulling- their ads is directly related to an unfavorable article in that paper and AT&T makes the paper aware of that fact, then AT&T -most certainly- is blackmailing and extorting the paper.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      joe, 7 Feb 2006 @ 12:21pm

      Re: AT&T and the SF Chrommical

      What have you missed?... The whole point.

      That AT&T is advertising in a news paper that is "supposed" to be unbiased. AT&T makes news that is unfavorable and when its reported pulls its ads. Given the obvious perception that a prerequisite to having an AT&T ad revenue is biased, preferential treatment and censorship. How can any news organization accept AT&T advertisements without looking corrupt and the truthfulness of their news reporting being in question?

      What's next? Will AT&T pull ads if favorable reports about SBC or Bell South is run?

      AT&T has compromised their own integrity and that of any news organization that will except their advertising dollars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brad Clarke, 7 Feb 2006 @ 9:45am

    I'd do it too...

    If a newspaper thinks it's readers are interested in hearing bad things about me then it's unlikely they'll buy my products anyway. Who am I to argue with them? Surely they know their readers better than I do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Horne, 7 Feb 2006 @ 10:12am

    ATT

    I not America great? A place where you can or can not spend money where you want for what ever reason. There is no reason to wonder why, plenty of others have nothing better to do but speculate on why others do as they do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    crander, 7 Feb 2006 @ 10:20am

    the problem with add supported services

    I agree with the arguments so far that it is their money and let them spend it how they want. But if! 2.5 mill is a large (over 10%) of their ad revenue then it starts to affect independence. You would hope that media is reporting the unbiased truth (let's be honest though, what's the chance of that) but these large companies that have the clout are influencing the direction stories take, then that is bad for everyone.

    This game of dominance and influence over what the media has to say happens everyday and all around us. I don't think we should be suprised to hear that AT&T is playing game. The question becomes, as concerned citizens, how do we make the media less biased? How de we decrease the influence of ad revenues?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ken, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:14am

      Re: the problem with add supported services

      Isn't this an example of unbiased media? Printing a negative article about a major advertiser sure seems so to me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      rizzn, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:20am

      Re: the problem with add supported services

      This is one of the reasons New Media is so important. As focus from consolidated news sources shifts to many smaller news sources, this would turn into a non-story. Example: if AT&T were to pull their entire ad budget for Tech Dirt, my guess is that the decrease in revenue (if it weren't taken up by another advertiser immediately) would be measured in hundreds of dollars instead of millions. Tech Dirt wouldn't feel the pang, logistically, and wouldn't even be tempted to change their modus operandi to suit whatever advertisers did or didn't like their reporting.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zeak, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:25am

    The Point

    I think the point of this article is to make you think about what you read in the papers. How many news worthy articles aren't getting published beacuse advertisments might be pulled.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:46am

    Please fix the ampersand

    Make ATT have an entity (ampersand, "a", "m", "p", semicolon) instead of a bare ampersand, so that your RSS feed will work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TIA, 7 Feb 2006 @ 11:50am

    This is absurd

    If the SFC cannot survive without AT&T's ad revenue, then boo-hoo for the SFC. Ad revenue is NOT a pledge made by the advertiser; it is a product transaction. Either party is free to say, "I no longer wish to participate in this transaction" at any time. If the SFC said, "We aren't going to publish any more ads from AT&T because we don't approve of X," would any of you complain? I doubt it.
    This is more the fault of SFC than AT&T. Not because AT&T is acting childishly, but because SFC allowed themselves to become so dependent upon AT&T's individual ad revenue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dakkon, 7 Feb 2006 @ 12:47pm

    Nothing wrong

    I don't think ATT has done anything wrong. They are pulling their ads out of a specific provider. They can do this for any number or reasons. Unless they explicitly say that they are doing this in reaction to negative articles, They haven't done anything wrong.
    However, we as consumers may no like the preceived impropriety and are also free to choose who we give out money to. If we want an unbiased meda, then we should media outlets that are trying to be unbiased. We should also not support corporations which are trying to influence our sources of information. It's America. Everyone is free to make their own choices. The power ultimately lies with us to to hold people, government, and businesses accountable for their actions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ryan, 7 Feb 2006 @ 1:51pm

    Good for ATT

    I am glad they yanked their spending with the SF Comical. If it was my company who was spending money to advertise and they said something bad about it I would yank it too pure and simple. I could care less what anybody thinks, they can all kiss my A**. It is pure crap to think they have to continue, its their cash they can spend it anywhere they want.
    Also, since when is the SF Comical "objective" about anything anyway? They have their own agenda by printing slanderous filth that the people of San Franfreako will buy. If you think they are somehow "responsible journalists" just reporting the news then you are a retard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      redheaded_stepchild, 7 Feb 2006 @ 2:39pm

      Re: Good for ATT

      First let me say that I agree with your sentiments regarding the Chronicle. I can't remember the last time I read it without scoffing at a story.
      That said, you are giving both ATT and SFC the justification for continuing this kind of shady behavior. ATT likes your argument because it means 'there is no such thing as blackmail', and SFC because if they give in and start sucking up to ATT, they can just say 'well, we can't afford not to!'
      So pick what you want: honest, fair reporting without outside influences of any kind, or a paper that takes whatever kind of slant the advertisers require. You can't have it both ways.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lonewolf, 7 Feb 2006 @ 2:24pm

    Hmmm

    Dont bite the hand that feeds you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Peter Forex, 22 Oct 2006 @ 7:16am

    Newspaper

    If a newspaper thinks it is readers are interested in hearing bad things about me then it is un likely they will buy my products anyway. Who am I to argue with them? Surely, they know their readers better than I do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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