Journalism encounters conflicts of interest when journalists must cover and report on companies that advertise on the websites and in the pages of the publications where reporting appears. As advertising revenue dries up in the publishing industry, do the conflicts of interest dry up with it? Maybe not.
The linked piece has the flavor of an op-ed bemoaning Octane, a powersports lending platform, buying leading powersports magazine publisher Bonnier Motorcycle Group. The value proposition Octane sees in operating motorcycle publications is in generating leads for its lending business. When the success of motojournalism is measured by the volume of loans generated for its lending platform owner, how easy will it be for motojournalists and their editors to practice and maintain journalistic values like objectivity and balance in reporting? Here the concern is less that there will be pressure to favor some motorcycle companies (advertisers) over others (non-advertisers), but instead pressure to write nothing that could dissuade readers from buying (and thus taking out loans for) motorcycles, generally.
LINK: Lending Platform Octane Acquires Bonnier Motorcycle Group – Cycle World Will Stop Printing in October (by Jensen Beeler for Asphalt & Rubber)
For those not familiar with Octane, it is a part of Fintech, and it operates as a portal for financing loans to powersports buyers. Why does a lending house want to buy Cycle World, Motorcyclist, Dirt Rider, Motorcycle Cruiser, UTV Driver, ATV Rider, and Cycle Volta? …
The concept of media as a lead for sales is nothing new in the motorcycle industry, as exemplified by titles like Common Tread, which services leads for RevZilla, as well as Canada’s FortNine, which runs its own media platform under the same name.
This arrangement does allow for a certain amount of independence for these publications (using that term loosely), since those titles are not dependent on ad sales revenue for their survival, and thus are not beholden to a list of advertisers.
However, these titles do exist with the sole purpose of driving sales to another business unit in the same company, which can generate its own unique conflicts of interest, and still create situations of financial motivations before editorial independence.
What do you think?