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My RSS reader has subscriptions to feeds for several dozen technology blogs that I've come to rely on because they've provided news and information that I find useful and valuable.

I have but one simple expectation: relevance.

When I check my feeds in the morning, I know I'm not going to find everything interesting but expect that I'm not going to find news and information that is entirely irrelevant.

Irrelevant, however, is the word that best describes one of the items in the Silicon Alley Insider feed this morning promoting Gilt, a members-only etailer for discounted high-street fashion. The post gives SAI readers the ability to join Gilt so that they can access "some fabulous clothes that they're selling at a humongous discount".

Although SAI discloses that Gilt is a sponsor (obviously) and even goes so far as to disclose that Gilt is paying SAI a member recruitment fee, the problem is that Gilt has no inherent relevance to readers of a blog that describes itself as a "business site" covering "the intersection of the technology, media, and communications industries, with a focus on companies and people making waves and shaping digital business."

While I understand that SAI needs to make money and support it in its efforts to do so, publishing an advertorial for a company that sells discounted fashion is not the way to go about earning revenue. It adds no value to the user experience and is so far out of left field so as to be conspicuous.

Accordingly, I've removed SAI from my RSS feed and will have to check on it manually - if and when I remember to.

While some might consider me a blowhard, I know I'm not the only person who thinks this way these days.

One commenter asked "What's with the spam?" and another going by the name 'rizchamp' wrote:

Just as I thought that SAI was on track to surpass traditional journalism in speediness and integrity, here comes this - a major set back. Even if SAI wants to sell out, sell something a bit more relevant, even Oprah book club is better than this! 

Someday, someday soon, people will be willing to pay for good/prompt news and information, as they always had with newspaper and magazines. But by selling out to whatever/whomever, SAI will not get that money.

A lost [sic] of vision in my view.

A lot has been made of advertiser concern over how their brands are impacted when their ads are displayed next to user-generated content of unknown quality but online publishers also need to be cognizant of the fact that what they choose to advertise and how they choose to advertise it impacts their brands.

In the case of SAI, I learned that SAI would rather push onto its users a service of questionable value and relevance than err on the side of integrity and either a) accept ads from relevant companies or b) find a less-intrusive way to promote advertisers whose relevance is not significant.

With so much news and information to filter through today, much of it of very good quality, the last thing I need is to deal with irrelevant content that is pushed onto me. SAI violated my trust and that means that SAI has lost at least one regular reader.

I think it's worth considering that publishers now compete in an 'attention-based' economy and earning and retaining that attention is hard work. Conversely, losing it only takes a single violation.

Patricio Robles

Published 27 January, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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