The Brain Pickings controversy about how its author Maria Popova made money out of Amazon affiliate links, while asking for donations to support her “ad-free” site, is a good opportunity to rethink attitudes about Advertising.
Beyond the issue of whether or not Maria tried to deceive her readers is the issue of how much opposition and reaction against advertising she has demonstrated. Popova is not only clouding the truth but rejecting what she clearly assumes will be a detriment to her blog/brand. Despite the fact that Brain Picks not only approves of advertising but uses it to sustain itself her lack of ownership seems to indicate that she believes that advertising is inherently virtueless.
On the other hand, the fundamental property of advertising is that it advertises, not that it’s intrusive or gratuitous. […] So it’s understandable that many people, including Amazon, consider affiliate links to be advertising (as opposed to, say, some kind of biz-dev relationship). What’s more, many such links — especially when they’re accompanied by photographs of the product in question, and live permanently in the right rail of a website — are unambiguously advertisements.
[…] Will Popova’s readers still donate the same amount of money now that it is more obvious that Popova is running a “clearly commercial site”? Popova’s language — the way that she combines a request for donations with a statement that she doesn’t accept advertising — suggests that she fears they might not
—Maria Popova’s blogonomics, part 2