EDITOR'S NOTES - by Diane W. Collins

Going Against the Flow
by Diane W. Collins

We have discovered a new use for genealogy software. You know...the software for tracking your family history. Try using it to outline all the strategic partnerships and mergers on the Net. It may be the only way consumers will be able to discern when product is being recommended and when it's being hyped.

Seriously, I took a lot of time this week to look at the tangled Web that has been woven with strategic partnerships online. Alliances in and of themselves are not bad. It's how you let those relationships change your business philosophy that is the danger. I would refer you to a recent article, Strategic Partners: Friend or Foe to ascertain the characteristics a prospective business should have before you make a decision to form an alliance. The most important characteristic in developing successful partnerships is Business Ethics. "Look for companies that build their businesses on the same ethical principles upon which you build yours," is advice that will let you sleep at night.

Currently, the Web enjoys the confidence of its users. Studys show that people believe what they read and see online. The Internet has credibility...for the moment. It won't last long with some of the tactics being used today. Recommending product in an editorial context when you are being paid to do so breaks trust if you have not clearly defined that this is "sponsored content." Offering products outside a "store" environment or in an area not assigned to advertisement attempts to "blur" the readers perception of your relationship to that product. Users aren't stupid. They catch on fast. Sure you might pull it off for awhile but the consequences are long term. Credibility is one of the most valuable assets any company can have. Unfortunately, business schools haven't been teaching ethics lately.

What if you've unwittingly been drawn into this? Every business makes mistakes. When those mistakes are addressed with an upfront apology and a change in company policy, users forgive. A company's first move toward a downward slide is to forget who really put them where they are today. Their users. Trust is only scoffed at by the foolish.

There is a need to go against the flow of current Internet trends. There is a desire for a place of solace where users know they can get the straight shot. This can only happen if you thoroughly check out the products you represent. Only make recommendations for those you would personally purchase should you have the need. Then divest of anything that would taint you by association. Consider this contrary philosophy an investment over time. You might not "get rich quick", but in the end you'll own the marketplace.

At Marketingweb.com we don't just talk. We are removing any sponsored content from our site as of this week. Even though our editorial policy allows no interference with our content, we do not wish to risk the confidence of our users as they become more aware of how other sites may abuse this method of advertising. No product that we represent will be recommended in an area that is used in an editorial context. Our banner advertising spaces are clearly defined on this site and advertising of any type will remain within the context of those spaces or within our store...not in the body of our text. Our Community is our business.

Going against the flow? It's a harder swim, but that just makes it a better work out.




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