That’s the question posed by David Naylor, who says he was told by a “UK Search Marketer” that
“they’d been offered (and had paid for) links from the website of a major UK newspaper. At £15,000 it was an expensive buy, but with the national newspaper sites being such huge authority hubs they felt it was worth the money.”
Naylor’s post doesn’t identify the newspaper or the source, but he does identify some links on a different newspaper’s site – The Telegraph – that:
“go via affiliate networks such as Tradedoubler & Affiliate Window, which will pay a commission on sales. I’m no expert but I think that’s sailing pretty close to the wind in terms of journalistic integrity, and I believe the NUJ’s code of conduct would agree with me.”
The comments are as interesting as the post itself. Kyle, for instance, points out:
“Given that one of the links actually has ‘telegraph’ as the affiliate id through Buy.at (http://mands.at/telegraph) I would say that this isnt a rogue staffer, and in fact an active business push . And fair play to them too – we all know how much newspapers have suffered recently and that the key to their survival lies in their ability to generate revenue from their online assets. Finally wiseing up to the affiliate business model will be very good for them.”
While Daniel Mcskelly points out: “Anthony also found the same aff code in use on another site that clearly isn’t a telegraph property so I do wonder.”
I’m waiting for a response from the Telegraph. Comments invited.
UPDATE: The Telegraph have responded quite quickly. A spokesperson tells me:
“The articles you have highlighted do contain some affiliate links. This is an accepted means by which online publishers monetise their content.
“The key point is that Telegraph Media Group’s editorial teams have no involvement in the commercial side of the operation. The links that you refer to are added post-publication by our commercial department. The use of an intermediary to track links has no impact on which websites our journalists select and this does not affect our editorial standards in any way. Our journalists are free to write whatever they like about any products, as you would expect. In this respect it is no different from the traditional journalist / advertiser relationship.”