wapostmazon Newspapers have been hit hard by the economy and by shifts in advertising and readership, and the venerable Washington Post is feeling the pinch. Fox News reports that the Post is closing its bureaus in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, and will be concentrating more on local news from now on.

But this is not the Post’s only economizing measure. TechFlash reports that the Post is experimenting with the Amazon affiliate program: when books are mentioned in articles or reviews, the articles will include links to Amazon.com where the books can be bought with a percentage of the sale going to the Post.

The program will start out as a 30-day experiment, after which the Post will presumably decide whether to continue it. The links will be placed regardless of the light in which the book is mentioned (positive or negative), and the news and editorial team will not be involved in their placement.

Here on TeleRead, David Rothman feels very strongly about not giving even an appearance of impropriety. Hence, he has been very insistent on keeping the advertising and journalism parts of the site separate, even without the FTC frowning on blog compensation. Among other things, that means no monetary affiliate links show up in our articles.

This position comes from Rothman’s experience as a veteran journalist; newspapers (at least the reputable ones) have long held themselves to high ethical standards when it comes to being compensated for their stories.

But the Internet works by a different set of rules than the old print paradigm. This is a big part of the reason that newspapers are in trouble to begin with. If adapting to the new Internet era requires as famous a paper as the Washington Post to place affiliate links, perhaps it is time for other papers to re-examine those standards, too.


  1. Chris, very good post re Washington Post closing national bureaus. That is a massive blow to very concept of a national newspaper like the Post or maybe soon the New York Times as well. Did I say newspaper? Opps, meant to say “snailpaper”. The Internet is changing the very way we get the news and report the news, and as much as I prefer hands-on reading of a print newswpaper, to mark up and cut out clippings (remember those?) and keep them around my living room floor for a few days after reading them, the future is with E-Ink and screenpapers, and journalists, the new breed that is, will do their jobs from a new perch. It really is a new world acomin’……. NOW!

    One chaper closing, a new chapter beginning. Life goes on. For those of us with stents in our hearts, and the rest of you in good health. Stay healthy, everyone!

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