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March 25, 2009

Telegraph says ‘affiliate’ links have no effect on editorial

By Press Gazette

Telegraph Media Group has defended its use of paid-for ‘affiliate’ web links in online stories, which pay commission when a reader clicks on them.

The practice, which was spotted by search marketing expert David Naylor on a handful of Telegraph articles, allows the publisher to earn a small amount of money when readers click certain links to external websites.

Naylor has found links on the site to Tradedoubler and Buy.at, two affiliate marketing companies which act as an intermediary between publishers and advertisers and pay commission on a per-click basis.

This Telegraph.co.uk article on the “top five wine websites” includes a link to Tesco.com. But instead of going direct to Tesco, it goes via Tradedoubler – earning TMG a few pence per visit.

In this piece on technology websites, the link to Amazon.co.uk includes a “telegraphcouk” referral – meaning TMG gets a percentage commission on every Amazon purchase by visitors who follow the link.

Naylor wrote on his blog: “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.”

Clause 14 of the code states: “A journalist shall not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial produce or service save for the promotion of his/her own work or of the medium by which he/she is employed.”

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In a statement posted on Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog last night, a Telegraph Media Group spokeswoman said the practice was “an accepted means by which online publishers monetise their content”.

And she said the links were added to stories by the TMG commercial department after they had been written.

“The key point is that Telegraph Media Group’s editorial teams have no involvement in the commercial side of the operation,” she said.

“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.

She added: “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.”

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