Consumer WebWatch, a nonprofit research project from Consumers Union (the folks who do Consumer Reports), today announced a new Advisory Board that's pretty much a who's who of online journalism. Including an executive producer from MSNBC on the Internet, a Medill professor, the founder of the Online News Association, the Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and the managing editor of the Dallas Morning News.
The press release says these advisors will help WebWatch "improve credibility and consumer trust in Web sites" which is an awfully broad target, so I called up Director Beau Brendler to ask for some details. Turns out it's not about privacy, ecommerce, or improving journalism skills, it's about church and state -- you know, editorial versus advertising, and the whole grey world of advertorial that much of the Web has turned into.
Brendler says, "We've just done a major survey, and found it's a misconception that people don't care about church vs. state. Distinguishing editorial content from advertising is very important to folks who use the Internet." So, the Board plans to:
1. Research the ways editorial, advertising and marketing are currently mingling online
2. Educate publishers, with reports and online info, about how to cope with advertisers who demand editorial input, and how to make sure content submitted by potential advertisers is credible.
3. Educate the public with reports such as "10 things to look for when looking at health information on the Internet."
Although the Board already has 24 members, Beau plans to break it down to committee-levels to get stuff done (he's got an aggressive research calendar to meet) and says he's definitely interested in hearing from folks who'd like to join in, especially experts on health content, children's Web sites and financial content. You can contact him directly at 914.378.2018
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