Rich Tehrani is the president and group editor-in-chief of TMCnet. He saw the article I wrote last month about their use of sponsored channels and editorial content and tried to submit a comment. Unfortunately, TypePad rejected his comment as spam before I ever had a chance to see it (possibly because of length and numerous links... Who can tell?). He sent me his comments in an email and I would like to run them in full. Because of the length, I decided to put it as a new entry, rather than a comment to the previous article. Here is Rich's response, unedited and unexpurgated:
Thanks for the article -- I am happy you have found your way to TMCnet in the past and have perused some of our content. Since you had questions I decided I would answer them. Channels are sold and promoted as sponsored content areas to companies currently in the communications and technology spaces.
We do not hide the fact these are sponsored areas – in fact we work with channel sponsors to closely meet their artistic/branding needs and their logos and usually 3 advertisements appear on the page with the articles.
Part of the reason companies purchase channels is because they rank very high on search engines – and these are organic links which are extremely valuable.
In terms of objectivity, etc – we don’t instruct our writers to alter their company coverage in any way when writing for a channel. A channel comes with an obligation to cover the company on a frequent basis but we do cover all companies in our spaces and write 150-300 articles a day meaning channel customers do not generally get any special treatment. In fact, our goal is to cover all news in our markets on a daily basis.
When a reader clicks on the channel button which appears on virtually every page of TMCnet, they come to a page which says the following:
TMC's channel program is a community-building vehicle assisting our partners in building their brand. Channels topics feature a diversity of important topics in the IP Communications, VoIP, IP Telephony, CRM, Call Center and Information Technology industries.
I believe this to be self-explanatory.
We do allow channel customers to control the news on their channel and some approve the stories which appear on these sponsored content sites. Still, it is plainly a sponsored page and I firmly believe there is no conflict in this approach. In fact, an article that a channel sponsor does not want to run on their channel will generally end up somewhere else on TMCnet.
We also have a product called a Global Online Community (GOC) which has much more content than a channel and is a richer and more exclusive product. Generally the companies sponsoring GOCs do not put restrictions on what we cover and subsequently a GOC focusing on IP communications will have many articles focusing on the IP communications industry and in most cases will have articles on the sponsor’s competition.
When clicking on the GOC graphic at the top of virtually all TMCnet pages you see the following text:
TMCnet's Global Online Communities™ (GOCs) are robust editorial platforms, built with layer upon layer of content in multiple media formats. Each GOC focuses on a specific area of the market, and is populated and designed in conjunction with the community's sponsor. GOCs are vibrant communities that, over time, achieve very high rankings on leading search engines. Based on the extreme focus of their content and resources, GOCs are bookmarked by decision-makers who join these communities seeking news, product information, and partnership opportunities. All GOCs are highlighted on TMCnet's, appearing in the top tabs on each page of the site - including the TMCnet home page.
Again, we cannot be any more transparent in our approach.
As a matter of course we do write articles on webinars in the industry. In fact here is a blog entry I wrote about one of your webinars in April of last year.
In addition, many of the webinars TMC conducts are also written about. Our web readers feel webinars are valuable resources (as evidenced by the over 10,000 people a year who attend them) and this is why you might find an article covering a webinar on a company’s channel. We believe this is a logical place for this content to live and moreover by aggregating company news on a single page, readers have a quick and easy resource to come to when looking for happenings in a market segment and/or a specific company.
Feel free to drop me a line at (rtehrani (at) tmcnet dot com) any time you have additional questions on TMCnet or our parent company TMC. We have about 120 monthly sponsors to our channels and communities and I personally believe these products are going to be a pillar of the web advertising market going forward.