In February, Digiday began its “Confessions” series. The idea is simple: We trade anonymity to a person in the industry in exchange for complete honesty. Since then, we’ve run a total of 14 Confessions, with the honest feedback of everyone from a young digital media planner to a brand social media expert to an advertising technology executive. (See the full collection here.)
The feedback has mostly been positive. Many have found the series a refreshing dose of honesty in an industry where the real problems and issues are often papered over in public settings, such as trade publications and conferences. Yet others haven’t liked our series. Mario Bertozzi, an executive with VivaKi, for example, wrote on his blog that the series is “a little gutter press.” More recently, an executive at an advertising technology firm said our recent confession with an ad-tech executive was actually with a publisher. (It was with an ad-tech executive.)
I’d like to clarify our process for this series. Everyone who participates in our Confessions series is thoroughly vetted. Nearly all are sources we know personally. In a few instances, we have been contacted by people interested in contributing. In every case, we verify the person is who he or she says. I understand that people will weigh the words of an anonymous source differently from those made publicly. That’s fair. One thing I can guarantee, however, is that these people are who we say they are. Our hope is the honesty we get out of these pieces outweighs the fact that they are, by necessity, anonymous.
There are some rules we follow with the Confessions. One is we try to get information that we wouldn’t get if the person was speaking publicly. Another is we don’t let anyone attack another person in the industry. This isn’t the proverbial bathroom wall. Finally, we are very sensitive to people using anonymity in order to undermine a competitor. That hasn’t really happened. We take this responsibility seriously, and we understand our credibility is at stake with each and every piece.
We plan to continue this series for the long term. There are many areas we haven’t explored. I’m particularly interested in hearing from a procurement department head, for instance, and an agency receptionist who sees the comings and goings in the waiting area. The old saying is “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” I’m of the mind that honest discussion of problems and challenges is more beneficial than PR-vetted fluff. If you’re interested in contributing your honest viewpoint, please contact me. Also, please suggest other roles we should do in this series. Look for our next Confession on Monday of a startup executive’s view of the venture capital industry.
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