Monday, January 15, 2007

Liberals/NDP/Conservatives/Everyone buys headlines at Bourque!!

There is a growing story over the sale of headlines at Bourque Newswatch, the popular news aggregator. I must say that I can't blame Bourque for selling headlines - it's his prerogative. But it does seem a little like payola.

Anyways, some have their knickers in a knot because they claim Bourque has a secret plot to sell space to Conservatives. The problem is, it's not terribly secret. The second problem is, he seems to sell space to everyone. One need only to click on his pitch page to find this list of "clients who count on us to get their message seen, heard, and actioned":

Air Canada, Liberal Party Of Canada, New Democratic Party of Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, BMO, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, PC Party of Ontario, Glaxo Smithkline, Canwest-Global, Canadian Payday Loan Association, Canadian Medical Association, Friends of the CBC, Rick Mercer's Report on CBC, Canadian Chemical Producers Association, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Medical Association, Labatt's, IPEX Thermoplastic Piping, Rx&D, Forest Products Association of Canada, Canadian Alliance, Fitness Industry Canada, Canadian Tire, Canadian Labour and Business Centre, Rittenhouse, TDBank, Liberal Party of Ontario, Belinda Stronach Leadership Campaign, John Tory Mayoralty Campaign, Marijuana Party, Saskatchewan NDP, Canadians For Equal Marriage, Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, Vancouver Film School, Summa Strategies, Pollara, SES Research, Biotech.Ca, Prospectus Associates, BC Liberal Party, Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Riley Information Services, Compaq, CIBC, Cadillac, CasinoAcura.Com, SportsBetting.Com…and many, many more!


Cicero In Pants said...

Selling headlines is definitely Payola. He should mark advertisements as advertisements. Paid spots as paid spots. I don't care who's doing the buying. As a reader, it makes me feel "played".

Prior to this little scandal, I had already started to lose faith in Bourque. Bourque's website is principally useful as an aggregator of headlines - one stop shopping - on Canadian politics. Lately, though, his selection seems random and agenda driven. As a result, I think a vulnerability is opening up for a Bourque competitor with some integrity and competence. I've already started looking around for one. He should pay attention to the reason his audience visits his page - or risk killing the goose that lays his golden eggs.

Jeff said...

I don't have an issue with Pierre selling headlines. The question for me is, did the CPC purchase sponsorship on his site during the last election campaign? A look at headlines during the campaign shows a strong anti-Liberal bias. If they did buy ads during the writ period, and it wasn't declared as an ad as per Elections Canada regulations (authorized by the official agent for...), that's would appear to be a violation.

Peter Loewen said...

Sure. Fair question. Did the Liberals buy headlines from him, and have they declared these as well? It's a bit of an unknowable, so the question is a bit unfair.

Anyways, I am sure Bourque is smart enough to be registered as a numbered company, so you'd never know.

Jeff said...

It seems the Libs have bought ads from him, they're listed as a client along with the CPC. I think there's better ways to spend money, but I'm not consulted on these things.

My only concern though is with the election period, because of the mandated disclosure laws. ANY ad spending during the writ period must be declared, and tagged.

Peter Loewen said...

Of course. And the Libs and the Cons and whoever else may have bought headlines have almost certainly declared them.

All I am saying is that as someone who has poured over Elections Canada returns trying to break out different types of ad spending, I am certain that you'll have a hard time identifying whether or not the Cons or Libs actually used Bourque in the last election, even if they disclosed it. First, because the returns are complicated, and the spending could have occurred through a moribund riding association. Second, because his company is probably numbered. So, in short, if you beg a question where the Conservatives have to have a line in their EC return which says 'Bourque' and if they do not then they are committing fraud then we both know exactly what answer you're going to get.

Cicero In Pants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cicero In Pants said...

I don't have an issue with Pierre selling headlines.

I honestly don't get why so few people have an issue with this. I understand that as a partisan your main focus will be on "getting" the tories and that they will be happy to return the favor. I can't be bothered climbing into that swamp. I don't care who wins enough.

But do you really mean that you have no issue with what Bourque is doing?

I don't find passing things that are ads off as non-ads anytime. It even bugs me when AOL-Time Warner cross promotes their movies on CNN. Ah well - he isn't breaking any laws so it must be ok. ... right?

Jeff said...

Peter, I would think the official agent declaration would have also been required on the Web site when ads ran as well. It may be a grey area of election law, but one which should be clarified as I'd imagine all parties will be looking to the Web more as an ad vehicle in the next campaign.

But do you really mean that you have no issue with what Bourque is doing?

Cicero, I think its unethical, shady and dumb, and diminishes any credibility he may have. But I don't rely on him as a news source, and I could care less about his credibility. That's his problem, if people begin to not use his site. He's free to do what he's doing, and it's his choice. I'm not going to lose sleep or get indignant over it. I'll get my news elsewhere. The market will decide his value.

Peter Loewen said...

BCer in Toronto. Good point on the official agent thing. Except that if Bourque is providing a "service" rather than an ad, then it's not necessary. Which is probably what is happening (the service being the favourable link, which isn't a product like a brochure). But good point. This may be a real grey area.

I was thinking about this more in terms of the difficulty of tracking the payments (for whichever parties made them).

Peter Loewen said...

Cicero: what's your email address? drop me a line at

Anonymous said...

I went from Bourque to Neale (RIP) to National Newswatch (ugh!) to Daily Canuck (Kinsella recommended it, I should have known better) and now I guess it's back to Bourque.

Daily Canuck lost me when it said:

"Today you will notice some changes to this headline service and blog.
First of all, we are increasing our focus on the environment — particularly sustainable development and global warming. At the top of the page we’ve introduced a new “Green News” section which will focus on the ideas, people and technology that can help us find the way forward to a cleaner, greener planet. This space is now called the “Red Green Blog” to reflect our focus on federal politics from a Liberal point of view and our environmental emphasis. Some things haven’t changed, though — we continue to offer headlines, mostly on politics, and we continue not to sell them or distort their intent. In fact, no outside group is paying for any of the content we provide."

Daily Canuck is a Don Millar production, the guy responsible for foisting David Suzuki on an unsuspecting Canadian public. If Daily Canuck doesn't consider David Suzuki an "outside group", does that mean the site is nothing more than the "News According To David Suzuki" ?

Quick, someone revive Judy Rebick to get news that's comparatively a little more balanced. I suppose I could just stick to the CBC website, but watching paint dry on the wall is more exciting.

fifa 14 xbox 360 coins said...

We do not have a problem along with Pierre promoting head lines. The actual query personally is actually, do the actual CPC buy sponsorship upon their website over the last selection marketing campaign? A glance at head lines throughout the marketing campaign exhibits a powerful anti-Liberal prejudice. When they do purchase advertisements throughout the writ time period, also it was not announced being an advert according to Elections North america rules (sanctioned through the recognized broker with regard to... )#), that is might seem to be the breach.

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