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Newsweek, Post link to commerce

Direct links from editorial areas to shopping sites may raise questions about journalistic integrity.

2 min read
Two old-media veterans today are launching a decidedly new-media venture with online shopping links directly from the editorial site to comparison shopping, the hottest trend in e-commerce.

The online versions of the Washington Post and Newsweek today are launching "Marketplace," a comparison shopping tool powered by Junglee, which online book giant Amazon.com owns.

The sites will allow users to link directly to the shopping site where they can do comparison shopping from retailers registered with Junglee.

But they also will be able to link to products from editorial areas. For instance, there will be a link in the book reviews area that will allow a user to purchase a book being reviewed.

Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive is far from the first to add shopping to its site or to directly link to shopping from editorial areas. Other sites who pioneered the practice faced criticism from people who worried that it would compromise journalistic integrity.

Many raised their eyebrows, concerned that the nearly religious and highly traditional separation of editorial and advertising was being breached. But in the last year or so, the practice has become much more acceptable--as long as the content is clearly distinguished from the ad.

Paul Pappajohn, vice president of development and e-commerce for Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive said the company is "very sensitive to the issues surrounding the separation of editorial and advertising."

"The contextual links," he added, "are not within the actual article itself. It's a box clearly delineated outside the article."

"We're not advocating purchasing those books," he said. "We're just creating the ability ... for them to go purchase that book."

WNI is clearly trying to leverage its loyal readership to gain sales and make its Web operations profitable. Some publications have chosen to charge subscriptions, but the ones that can do it successfully are few and far between.