Online publisher labels Rudd access offer unethical as Vice avoids questions

Independent publisher Sound Alliance has denounced a ‘comment for content’ furore engulfing Naked Communications and a number of youth orientated websites this morning.

The Sydney Morning Herald today revealed that Naked Communications was fired by the Labor Party after approaching youth orientated outlets, such as Fairfax’s The Vine, Vice and Pedestrian.TV is some cases asking for free advertising and tailored editorial in exchange for an exclusive interview with Kevin Rudd.

Tim Duggan, content director of Sound Alliance, which runs the youth website Junkee and whose website was not approached by the ad agency, told Mumbrella Naked’s offer was both “extremely daft” and also “unethical”.

“Labor is entirely justified in cutting them off. This sets a dangerous precedent when access to someone like the Prime Minister is dangled as a carrot to try and influence, not only editorial input but also advertising as well,” said Duggan.

“The golden rule they broke is about transparency. Young people are clever and extremely media savvy when someone is trying to feed them bullshit and it seems like Naked were trying to do a back door deal and not be transparent about the message they were trying to get the publishers to communicate to their audience.”

Other online youth orientated publishers Pedestrian.TV and Vice Publishing have moved to distance themselves from Naked Communications and their offer.

Vice Publishing has declined to answer questions about how far its negotiations went, instead issuing a short statement which made light of the controversy, citing their recent story a baby in Papua New Guinea who has been named Kevin Rudd.

“Naked was trying to arrange an interview with Kevin Rudd for us (they must have read our piece on Baby Kevin Rudd reported from Papua New Guinea),” the company said in a statement. “There was no agreement around any editorial or advertising on VICE. As far as we can tell, the interview isn’t happening.”

Vice has not responded to requests for further detail on the nature of their negotiation with Naked.

Pedestrian.TV director Chris Wirasinha told Mumbrella that the deal offered to their website was not the same as one offer The Vine. “We were never offered anything in the form of advertising in exchange for interview time with Kevin Rudd,” said Wirasinha.

“We were offered an interview and Naked asked if we filmed the interview would they be allowed to distribute that interview i.e. on social media,” he said.

“There was never any discussions about us spruiking the Labor Party and there nothing in regards to running advertising across the site.”

Wirasinha said Pedestrian. TV never saw the briefing document reportedly distributed by Naked Communications and said he would never accept free advertising in exchange for editorial access.

“If they want to run ads across the site that’s fine but you have to pay to run ads and we wouldn’t do it in exchange for an interview with the Prime Minister,” said Wirasinha.

“The way Naked handled the situation with us they were always above board… however, if we got the same document that it is being reported The Vine received I would think that is definitely crossing the line.”

“If it had been us we would have declined the advertising component and I’d like to think we would have also run the story (about Naked’s offer).”

Sound Alliance’s Duggan commended The Vine for going public and revealing the offer. “I think it shows that there are still ethics in this industry and I applaud Alyx Gorman the editor of The Vine for taking a stand. Certainly if this was offered to us we would have taken the stand stance.”

“The line between advertising and editorial is blurring but there is still a line you can’t cross and I think offering access to an office like the Prime Minister’s is crossing that line.”

UPDATE: Alyx Gorman editor The Vine has tweeted this afternoon:Alyx

Nic Christensen 


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