Uncensored reader comments scare advertisers

Via Mailwatch I stumbled across this interesting piece of news: ‘Daily Mail braves uncensored reader comments‘. Just the title of the article raising some points that deserve looking at. For example, if you have ever flicked through the comments on the Daily Mail website you’ll realise what a homage to ignorance, racism and homophobia they are; so the Daily Mail is hardly leaving an age of properly moderated comments to let their moronic readers pour forth their hate in an uncensored frenzy. However, and perhaps here is the real reason why the Daily Mail is ‘brave’, anyone who has ever tried to make a sensible comment perhaps pointing out a factual inaccuracy or making an informed argument pointing out that Richard Littlejohn is talking absolute rubbish, will realise that it is these comments that the moderators are out to stop.

Racism, ignorance and the continual repetition of lies and misconceptions are absolutely fine for the Daily Mail Online, it is the sensible, logical comments they have a problem with. Perhaps the end of moderation spells a new age of enlightenment, or Mail readers will just have to work harder to secure their ill-formed preconceptions about the world – I wonder how many times the old ‘Oh dear the loony-left-liberal-scumbags are out in force today’ response will be wheeled out in the face of dissent (the Internet equivalent of a child putting their fingers in their ears and shouting ‘la, la, la I can’t hear you’). Perhaps the other fear for the Daily Mail is just how bad their readership is going to look when they have the chance to comment without moderation – perhaps there are reams of really really racist stuff not even the Mail Online dare print?

This argument does fall down somewhat when you consider that they actually pay Richard Littlejohn around £800,000 a year to produce very racist columns twice weekly – surely uncensored reader comments couldn’t be any more offensive than the hateful, ignorant bile that he vomits onto his laptop in Florida?

Anyway, we’re three paragraphs in and we haven’t got to my favourite part yet – the advertisers response to this news:

Jenni Convey, head of online marketing at O2, said, “There’s always the risk with user content that our brand advertising may appear next to a comment we may not agree with or like. In the Mail Online example, we would want to understand the controls the media owner is giving to users of the forum so inappropriate content can be reported. If we’re satisfied with the processes then it’s likely we would consider advertising.”

I luckily was able to click onto some offensive content on the Mail website – Richard Littlejohn’s latest racist outburst attacking gypsies, complete with De Sturmer style cartoon – and find that O2 happened to have their adverts slapped either side of this offensive content:

Furthermore, scrolling down the same page reveals a vast quantity of deeply offensive content, such as:

So, it rather begs the question: just what is too offensive for O2 or other advertisers? Is Richard Littlejohn ranting against gays and gypsies absolutely fine for advertisers, along with comments like the one above? Because that is the reality of advertising on the Daily Mal website: the whole content is offensive – it is a tabloid newspaper website edited by an absolute shit-stain of a human being, why would advertisers expect anything else? The fact that they cannot trust the readership of such a website to post uncensored comments in a responsible way – and nor do they have much faith in the ability of the Mail readership to self-moderate – speaks volumes about the sort of reader they know that they’re marketing their products to.

Have O2 marketing people never sat round the table discussing their advertising strategy and discussed what kind of content their ads are placed next to when they choose to advertise their products? Do they never stop to consider that – as above – their adverts could regularly appear next to the racist ignorance of Richard Littlejohn or any other of the stable of lying, vacuous and offensive contributors that makes up the Daily Mail press office? I wonder if an O2 executive would look at the above screenprint and think: ‘You know what, the tabloid press is a terrible thing and we don’t want any part of it’. Or would they simply think: ’29 million unique visitors a month’ and to hell with morals?

It seems they want it both ways. Advertisers want to sell the ignorant hordes of Mail Online readers their products, but somehow do not want to be at all associated with the opinions or views of those people in order to ‘protect [their] brand reputation’. Whereas, surely, if they wanted to protect their brand, they wouldn’t want such people seeing their adverts on such a website and perhaps wouldn’t even want them buying their products? Are they are happy to have two Mail readers speaking over an O2 network and generally being ignorant arseholes, but heaven forbid O2 would have an advert on the same page as a comment from one of those two customers?

Specsavers go a step further and threaten to boycott the Mail Online:

Mark Trustum, director of ecommerce at Specsavers, which advertises across the Mail’s site, said the brand wouldn’t choose to advertise on a website that contains content that could be controversial.

Just read the last part of that again, just to make sure it’s actually true: They would not ‘choose to advertise on a website that contains content that could be controversial’. Has Mark never looked at the Daily Mail website? Has he never looked at the latest lies stuck into a massive headline to stir up hatred against immigrants or other minority groups? If Specsavers do advertise on the Mail website (I cannot be bothered to check right now) and they do stick to the policy they outline above, then perhaps they are the ones who should have gone to Specsavers.

The only conclusion to be drawn from the article is that advertisers are kidding themselves if they think that somehow the Daily Mail website could become the home of offensive content due to uncensored comments. The truth is current comment moderation is there only to ensure only offensive comments get through, and even these comments often pale into insignificance when you scroll up the page and read the actual articles above them.

If advertisers really had any morals they would have never advertised on the Daily Mail website, but they do, which I think tells us all we need to know about the morality of advertisers.

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