Disclosure: Some of TechRaptor’s articles contain affiliate links.
There has been a long discussion about the ethics in games journalism over the past 3 months, though the questions posed in the debate have been around much longer. When notable journalist, Geoff Keighley, sat discussing Halo surrounded by a pile of Doritos and Mountain Dew, consumers wondered whether the media was ever really focused on them, or was it all about the money?
As part of the gaming media, I have to make a defense. Money is an important part of the process. Even websites with the best intentions for their consumers, much like the one you are reading now, need money to continue. Hosting, writers, technical support; these things all come at a price, and funding is required to keep everything in order to deliver news in the consumers interests. Media is, and always has been a business. This does not necessarily make it corrupt.
The problems occur when you sacrifice consumers, your readership, in order to make money. Gawker has mentioned before that their readers are not their audience, the advertisers are their audience, the readers are merely the product. Again there is nothing inherently wrong with this model, as long as the content is still focused on helping the consumers.
While advertising is a huge part of revenue, most media outlets also make a modest amount of money through affiliate links. Affiliate links are when a website posts a link to a product on an outlet such as Amazon, and in return for the publicity, the outlet will give the site a small portion of the sale, usually between 1-8%. Again there is nothing necessarily corrupt about including affiliate links, and they can really help a site, but only if the author genuinely enjoys and recommends the product.
Gawker has been known to be caught up in a few controversies in its time. Whether it was writer Sam Biddle encouraging bullying, lack of disclosures of relationships between authors and developers, or incorrectly smearing a man’s name in exchange for clicks, they have now come under scrutiny for not disclosing affiliate links by the FTC, the federal trade commission.
Kotaku has now been forced to go back through articles and disclose sales links such as this one on their list of the best PC games:
“Note: While all of these games are available through some digital service or other, if you buy any of them through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.”
While affiliate links do not always mean that the author has only inserted the link specifically to generate income, TechRaptor is generally pro-disclosures so that readers can be best informed of all possible motives behind articles. While the FTC has made no assumption that Gawker Media was disingenuous in their use of affiliate links, it is a win for consumers, who now have more information in order to make a fully informed decision before buying a product.
Update: I originally believed the disclosures to be Gawker wide, I have since found out it might only refer to Kotaku.