New York Times Turns Ads Off On 'Sensitive' Stories

from the advertising-sensibilities dept

I was looking at the HTML source of a recent New York Times story about a tragic plane accident—150 people feared dead—and noticed this meta tag in its head:

<meta property="ad_sensitivity" content="noads" />

There are no Google results for the tag, so it looks like it hasn't been documented, but it seems like a pretty low-tech way to keep possibly insensitive ads off a very sensitive story—an admirable effort. It's interesting in part because it's almost an acknowledgement that ads are invasive and uncomfortable. They cross over into the intolerable range when we're emotionally vulnerable from a tragic story. Advertisers know this too, and the New York Times might stipulate in contracts they'll try to keep ads off sensitive pages.

If I had to guess, I'd say this is probably a manual switch in their CMS. It would be interesting to see what sorts of stories get dubbed unfit for ads, though scraping enough article pages to get that information might raise some eyebrows on that side of the paywall.

(This information, by the way, doesn't have to be exposed for keeping ads off pages they serve. But it could help with debugging, and definitely could be useful for syndication and maybe even displaying in official apps.)

This isn't the first example of companies declining to advertise against tragedies. Five years ago a user documented that Gmail doesn't show ads on emails that contain words from a certain blacklist, at a certain density—one sensitive word per 167 "normal" words.

Reposted from parker higgins dot net

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Filed Under: ads, choices, sensitive stories
Companies: ny times


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  • icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 2:20pm

    Does this meta tag get read by the advertisement js which then hides the ads or is it just for content aggregation?

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

  • icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), 25 Mar 2015 @ 4:55pm

    Maybe I'm just more cynical in my old age, but I have a feeling it's less an unwillingness to use a tragedy for advertising, and more to avoid the backlash they're likely to get when, say, their keyword-based advertising server automatically serves up ads for pool cleaning products on a story about a fatal drowning accident.

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

    • icon
      Sheogorath (profile), 26 Mar 2015 @ 11:50pm

      Re:

      Or an exhortation to donate to Autism $peaks seen by a family member of an Autistic person who was killed during a restraint in the Judge Rotenberg Center.

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

  • identicon
    Wes Finley, 26 Mar 2015 @ 7:52am

    I worked for CNN.com for several years and we had a similar CMS feature. Since ad systems scan the stories to serve relevant ad content, a story about a Virgin Atlantic plane crash otherwise may get ads for Virgin Atlantic flights alongside.

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

  • icon
    Rocco Maglio (profile), 26 Mar 2015 @ 7:56am

    This is standard practice

    Turning off ads and/or comments on sensitive stories is common in the industry. Usually this is done by not printing the ad server javascript when the story is sensitive. Advertisers would be very annoyed if their hotel ad ran on a bed bugs story or any ad on a gruesome tragedy. I don't think I would trust the meta tag and continue to not print the javascript.

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

  • icon
    bizocean (profile), 26 Mar 2015 @ 11:51am

    Another

    But they will find anotherway to earn money from it.

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


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