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Advertising and Sponsorship in Online Publications

Chapter:
Ethical and Legal Considerations
Author(s):

Annette Flanagin

Advertising and Sponsorship in Online Publications

Online ads are not restricted by the physical limits of a printed page. For example, a user can increase the type size of the prescribing information that appears in small type in print pharmaceutical ads. Ads can rotate, expand, be animated, or pop up on a screen without the user’s request. An ad for a particular drug, product, or service can be hyperlinked to the manufacturer or provider’s website. In addition, ads can be targeted for specific users or a specific user experience. The standards for protecting editorial integrity of print publications apply to advertising in online publications and other electronic products, such as CDs, DVDs, websites, e-mail, audio and video casts, and online databases, especially for publications in clinical and health-related fields. For example, just as a print reader can choose to read an ad or skip over it, an online user should have the same choice; online ads should not interfere with the reading and use of editorial content and should not dominate the online content; and online ads should not appear adjacent to editorial content on the same or a closely related topic. As stated by the ASME, “While linking and other technologies can greatly enhance the user experience, the distinction between independent editorial content and paid promotional information should remain clear.”31

Privacy Concerns.

Privacy rights of online journal users and visitors must be maintained. If any specific or personal information about users is to be collected and specifically distributed or sold to third parties (such as advertisers), users should be informed in advance and given the opportunity to not have their information shared with others. Aggregate demographic information about numbers and types of users may be provided to advertisers to guide decisions about placing advertisements in specific journals in the same manner that circulation numbers are provided to advertisers and used for decisions to place print ads. This information may also be used by publishers to set advertisement rates and fees. Data on overall numbers of users, impressions (ie, number of times an advertisement has been viewed), and click rates (percentage of impressions that account for a click through to an advertiser’s website) are acceptable to share with advertisers provided that the journal advertising policy and use of such information are made clear to users.

Guidelines for Online Advertising and Sponsorship.

As the technology advances, online advertising will provide additional opportunities and ethical dilemmas for publishers and editors. Accordingly, guidelines for online advertising and sponsorship will also continue to evolve. The following guidelines, which are based on some of those developed for use in online versions of JAMA and the Archives Journals,4 provide guidance for advertising in online publications.

Online Advertising

  • Policies and procedures for online advertising should be jointly developed, reviewed, and approved by editorial and publishing staff. Similar principles should apply to print and online ad guidelines.

  • Journals that have policies for editorial review and approval of print ads should apply similar policies for review and approval of online ads.

  • Online advertising may appear on journal websites, journal-related e-mail messages (eg, e-mail alerts of new content or tables of contents that users have registered to receive), other communications of journal information, and other media (such as podcasts).

  • Online advertisements must be readily distinguishable from editorial content; ads should be labeled with the word Advertisement (ie, placed above or below the ad).

  • Online advertisements may appear as text, fixed or rotating banners, or pop-up windows. Online advertising should not interfere with a user’s ability to read, use, navigate within, search, or interact with editorial content. Users should have the ability to easily navigate away from such advertisements (eg, close a pop-up advertisement).

  • Online advertisements should not be juxtaposed with, appear in line with, or appear adjacent to editorial content on the same or a closely related topic, or be linked with editorial content on the same topic. However, just as advertising may appear across from the print table of contents, ads may appear adjacent to online tables of contents or similar listings of article titles (eg, a journal or publisher’s home page).

  • Online advertising may appear on screen with specific types of articles as long as the separation between editorial and advertising content is made clear and juxtaposition of editorial and advertisements on the same or a closely related topic does not occur. It is preferred that such ads not appear on editorial pages of scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and be reserved for other types of articles, such as news sections.

  • Logos of journals or journal owners may not appear on commercial websites as logos or in any other form without prior written approval.

  • Advertisements may link from the journal to an off-site commercial website, provided that viewers are clearly informed that they are viewing an advertisement by means of the word Advertisement placed above, below, or in the ad. The website to which the ad links should be reviewed in advance. The linked page must include the following elements:

    • Company sponsoring the website is clearly displayed.

    • Claims on the online advertisement and the landing page of the website are reasonable and substantiated.

    • No registration requiring personal information is required before reaching the website. For journals that permit facilitation of the gathering of such personal information (eg, promotional leads), privacy policies and procedures should be followed (see also “Privacy Concerns” above).

  • Non–journal-affiliated websites should not frame a journal’s website content without express permission; should not prevent the viewer from returning to the journal’s website or other previously viewed screens, such as by disabling the viewer’s Back button; and should not redirect the viewer to a website that the viewer did not intend to visit.

  • E-mail alerts and other forms of online information dissemination may have text or HTML ads embedded in the e-mail (top and/or bottom) provided that the relevant guidelines herein are followed.

  • Journals should not permit their content to be used on an advertiser’s site. However, journals may sell e-prints to advertisers who then link to the journal’s article from the website. In such cases, the advertiser’s website should not imply any relationship with the journal (see also 5.12.7, Reprints and E-prints).

  • Ads should not be linked to editorial content search terms. Journal search engines should not include the ability to search content from advertisements unless the results of such searches clearly indicate the difference between editorial and advertising content. Advertisers or sponsors should not receive preferential treatment in search programs and search results.

Online Sponsorship

  • Editorial content of any sponsored product (eg, online publications, CDs, DVDs, websites, e-mail, audio and video casts, and online databases) should be determined by the standard editorial process. The sponsor should have no influence over the editorial content of any sponsored product.

  • Sponsorship policies should be clearly noted, either in text accompanying the product or on a disclosure page, and should clarify that the sponsor had no input into or influence over the content.

  • All financial or material support for sponsored content should be acknowledged and clearly indicated (eg, on the home or landing page as well as on any packaging and collateral material included).

  • These acknowledgments should not make any claim for any supporting company product(s). The final wording and positioning of the acknowledgment should be determined by the journal, with review and approval by the editor. The wording could be similar to “Produced by [Journal Name] with support from [Company Name].”

  • The acknowledgment of the sponsor’s support may be linked to the sponsor’s website.

  • Journal names and logos should not appear on the sponsoring company website without prior written approval by the journal.

  • Journal search engines should not include content from sponsors unless the results of such searches clearly indicate the difference between sponsored and nonsponsored content. Sponsors should not receive preferential treatment in search programs and search results.

See also 5.12.4, Sponsored Supplements.

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