On Tuesday, Vox ran an article claiming that Gawker Media’s ad sales team denied a pro-choice group the opportunity to buy ad space on Jezebel on the grounds that it isn’t conservative enough. The ad is viewable above.
The piece notes that it’s strange that Jezebel, “one of the biggest feminist blogs on the internet,” would coexist in a company that boasts an ad sales team that shies away from addressing the same issues that staffers here frequently opine about. Writes reporter Sarah Kliff,
...ad staffers there made it clear that they wouldn’t accept this 60-second spot on the Gawker network.
“My management team is not allowing us to accept ads surrounding very specific politically focused topics like abortion,” an advertising representative at Gawker wrote in an email to UltraViolet’s representatives, which the group then shared with Vox.
When UltraViolet’s ad representative pressed on the issue — and the fact that Jezebel writers cover similar issues frequently – the same advertising representative responded, “While Jezebel’s editorial content is very feminist, our advertising management team tends to be more conservative on the advertising we can accept.”
At no point prior to reaching out to a Vox reporter did Ultraviolet or anybody representing Ultraviolet contact Jezebel editorial directly about running the ad, or about ad sales’ rejection of the ad. Ultraviolet did not ask us if we’d be interested in an interview, the story behind the video, or in any other engagement with the campaign until an inquiry from Vox tipped us off that this story was in the works.
As Kliff notes, Jezebel staffers have no say whatsoever over what kind of ads are run on our site, just as ad sales has no say whatsoever over what kind of editorial content runs on the site. That’s how media companies run. Ad sales refusing to imply endorsement of a controversial issue—even in a way that seems to parrot the line held by most editorial staffers—is not our ad sales team kneecapping us or stifling our free speech. It’s them doing their jobs, and allowing us to do ours. No respectable media company would allow editorial decisions to be made by an ad sales team.
Here’s the company’s official response, which we provided to Vox.
Gawker Media’s longstanding business policy has been to avoid controversial issue advocacy advertising of any stripe—a common practice across a wide variety of media companies. When a Gawker Media sales staffer used the term “conservative” to describe this approach, she used it in the sense of “avoiding controversial ads,” rather than endorsing a political agenda. This policy has nothing to do with the editorial content of Jezebel and our other sites, which are vehicles fordiscussions and free expression unmatched on the internet.
Decisions like this by our ad sales team are essential to preserving the freedom that draws and keeps us here. Frankly, we’d like to keep it that way.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.