The Daily Mail: Campaigning against AND 'giving away' digital radios
When the Daily Mail began their "free" DAB radio offer on Saturday, I saw a few quips suggesting that surely the paper had already identified digital radio as one of many, many, many causes of cancer and pointing out that the paper has been urging a campaign against digital switchover. Certainly a cursory search for DAB or digital radio in the Mail's search engine will turn up plenty of negative articles about the platform. And then there was the irony of their TV ad showing happy Mail listeners tuned in to BBC Radio 2 - home of the notorious Sachsgate broadcast the paper complained so vociferously about.
That isn't to say that the Mail can't have a commercial venture involving digital radio and still be critical of DAB and digital switchover editorially. After all, all newspapers have carried advertising from Apple and BP and Toyota, and, quite rightly, you wouldn't expect that to influence the editorial coverage of recent problems faced by those firms.
Where I do think the Mail has an issue is with presenting this offer alongside that critical editorial on their website.
On many of their stories, they have a component at the top of the page with links to the 'Most recent stories related to this article'. I think it is a great little unit, and does a brilliant job for both users and search engine spiders in directing them to the latest updates on a theme.
What this component doesn't do is make any distinction between purely editorial and commercially driven content.
As a result, they end up with articles from 2008 talking about DAB technology being a white elephant or the new Betamax, or columnist Sue MacGregor in March this year deriding the digital switchover appearing underneath the free digital radio offer. It is styled simply as a news item, not a promotion.
The problem is that it is impossible to engineer a system that can predict what humans will perceive as an odd combination. The simple solution for the Mail would be to ensure that 'advertorial' about reader offers is kept well clear of pure editorial in that component, to avoid these kind of awkward juxtapositions.