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Online publishers face heat over book deal

Published on .

Online publishers faced criticism this week over a potential conflict of interest between editorial and advertising.

On Sept. 9, BarnesandNoble.com launched an Affiliate Network program, under which its 40-plus members are paid a commission on book sales generated through links from their Web sites. Charter members include Time Inc. New Media, USA Today Online, Knight-Ridder New Media, CNN Interactive and other online publishers.

Analyst Gary Arlen, president of Arlen Communications, said: "This kind of deal does start to sully the reputation of a separate church and state in journalism." He said this is just the beginning of online content providers being accused of allowing advertising to cross the line separating it from editorial.

The New York Times Electronic Media Co., which is not part of the affiliate program, has a separate, similar deal with BarnesandNoble.com.

"In order for us to generate any revenue at all, we have to be a little more flexible with our advertising," said Martin Nisenholtz, president of The New York Times Electronic Media Co.

"But that in no way means The New York Times [online] newsroom is in any way going to change its ethics of 100 years," Mr. Nisenholtz added.

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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