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“Brain Pickings” Author Runs An “Ad-Free” Site, Except Not

Brain Pickings “curator” Maria Popova supposedly finances her site via donations and subscriptions, claiming to refuse advertising because she doesn’t “believe in this model of making people into currency”.

Evidently nobody told Maria that littering your posts with affiliate links is virtually the same thing as plastering ads all over your site. She supposedly doesn’t disclose that she uses affiliate links because she doesn’t consider them “advertising”, even though as On Advertising points out, “[I]n every description of the service, Amazon calls the revenue made by partner websites ‘advertising fees’”.

It seems rather hypocritical of Maria to repeatedly shame people for not having stricter ethics regarding their revenue generating tactics when, in the words of my source, she herself is “making bank from Amazon affiliate links while 1) not disclosing that she has them, 2) claiming the site is ad-free, and 3) asking for donations from readers because the site is ad-free”.

I understand we all gotta make a buck. But if you’re going to promote yourself as some holier-than-thou, so-above-all-that intellectual antidote to an SEO and advertising obsessed world you might want to make sure your own disclosure ethics are above reproach.


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