Online publishers: what would you do to boost your ad revenue? What would you do to prevent your existing advertisers from walking away?

It appears that self-censorship in various forms could be a means of accomplishing both.

The latest evidence of this: the news that celebrity blogger Perez Hilton will be launching a tamer offshoot of his popular blog, PerezHilton.com. While most of the details surrounding Hilton’s new site are still unknown, at the OMMA Publishing conference this week, Henry Copeland of BlogAds.com, which works with Hilton, made it clear that one reason for the offshoot is to make Hilton more appealing to advertisers.

MediaPost explains:

…Copeland was tight-lipped about details of
the online offshoot, but indicated that it would feature longer-form
content and appeal more to mainstream advertisers who might not be as
comfortable with the sensational, salacious coverage that characterizes
PerezHilton.com.

It’s not entirely surprising that his team would look to implement a more modest form of self-censorship by creating a more politically-correct offshoot that has Hilton muting his true inner thoughts just a tad. After all, Hilton’s popularity now apparently allows him to command six-figure deals.

I think there are a number of things that will drive some publishers to self-censor:

  • A lack of leverage. The recession has caused advertisers to cut back on spending, depressing rates for many publishers. This overall dynamic gives advertisers a significant amount of leverage when it comes to dealing with publishers. If an advertiser has any questions about your content and the implications of being associated with it, the decision to go elsewhere is extremely easy.
  • There’s far more sensitivity amongst consumers and advertisers. Case in point: it was reported that Olive Garden decided to pull its ads on the Late Show with David Letterman after a joke he made about Sarah Palin’s daughter turned into an ugly media spat. Olive Garden has since stated that no decision to cancel the ads has been made – “yet“. Even if Olive Garden decides to stick with Letterman, however, one can be sure that Olive Garden marketing execs are not pleased with the situation; after all, who likes to pay for the privilege of finding their brand stuck in the middle of no-win mediafest?

So is self-censorship ethical? I think Hilton provides a good example of a sensible strategy. He’s not ditching the content that got him where he is today; he’s simply expanding with a product that will appeal to different consumer and advertiser tastes. If he were to dramatically alter the content on PerezHilton.com, on the other hand, his audience would no doubt notice and there’s a good chance he’d lose part of it, negating some of the benefits of creating a more advertiser-friendly environment.

I suspect Perez Hilton won’t be the only online publisher to grapple with this issue.

Photo credit: Oscalito via Flickr.