Some folks at the About.com graphic design forum are a little ticked off that Logoworks, the bad boys from Utah (now, owned by HP) are, shudder, advertising on a graphic design forum and corrupting the hallowed halls of their venue. Posters are talking about full-scale mutinies, boycotts, and leaving the forum en mass to protest the sheer audacity of About (owned, unless I’m mistaken by the New York Times organization) accepting advertising dollars from a company that sells logo design services. They’re demanding to know what About is going to do about this outrage, and the revolt has spun off onto blogs and other design forums. Now, I’m not exactly a closeted fan of Logoworks (in fact, I’ve been called one of their ‘most vociferous critics’ by Rob Marsh – VP of customer experience), and Logowork’s antagonistic (they use the phrase ‘disruptive’) relationship towards anyone in the Graphic Design industry that isn’t, well, Logoworks is a matter of record.
Still – I’m a little bemused about the entire affair. I’d argue that About is completely within their rights to place ads for anything they want (as long as legal, etc) on their forum – a free service provided to interested members of the graphic design community. I’d also argue that Logoworks is well within their rights to place their ads wherever they want (though I might wonder how effective advertising logo design services to a graphic design forum ultimately is) within the framework of terms of service, etc (an opinion, BTW, I have no doubt will earn me some avarice from fellow travelers in the field). When you factor in the little nugget that these ads are triggered by keyword relevant content (ie: graphic design) I’d find it odd if Logoworks ads didn’t show up on a graphic design forum running contextual based advertising.
Which is kinda the theme of this post – how much pull should posters on a free forum have in defining what ads the forum owners allow to show up? I’d say none – only because I see the converse scenario that ultimately follows – how much pull should advertisers have on the visitor created content on a forum? Forum inhabitants will argue that they are creating the content that attracts the eyeballs, folks that the advertisers want to reach, in the first place. And they’d be right. Extrapolating this into being able to determine what ads are run, and what aren’t, seems to be a dangerous road to go down. How so? Well, the flip side of this argument might see advertisers making the case that they finance the forum and accordingly should get to censor the content of the forums, say – threads that are critical of the advertiser themselves. And that’s certainly a possibility when we’re co-mingling Logoworks – the poster child for what designers are opposed to – and graphic design forums. Seems to me that the best way is a ‘free for all’ where Logoworks can advertise wherever they want, while forum posters and visitors can bash away to their hearts content.