Acceptable or reprehensible? TV3 and Stuff buy Christchurch earthquake search terms

When it comes to increasing eyeballs, natural disasters are, rather perversely, usually good news for media owners. But where does the line get drawn? Is it acceptable for TV3 and Stuff to bid for search terms around the Christchurch earthquake? When TVNZ has committed to commercial free broadcasts from 6pm through to 12pm tomorrow and promised to make good on any campaigns impacted by the event and Google has set up a people finder (although it also benefits from the search purchasing), it seems awfully cynical to try and benefit from the disaster. As one media insider says, “this is not a time to increase traffic through to a website through paid means”.

When the first Canterbury earthquake struck, TVNZ broadcast live through the day and smoked TV3 in terms of its coverage. TV3 weren’t going to make the same mistake again and have committed to broadcasting live throughout the night, with one commercial free broadcast planned at 6am tomorrow. But perhaps this enthusiasm to let that fact be known might come back to bite them.

As for Stuff, not only did it buy search terms, it also stuffed up its post.

Tower is the most recent addition to the search term party.

What do you think? Acceptable or reprehensible? It happened during the last Canterbury earthquake, and our man says the Australian Advertising Standards authority deemed it inappropriate to buy search terms during cyclone Yasi. In the UK and the US, he says there is an unwritten rule that web traffic shall not be increased by buying search terms around natural disasters and he firmly believes it is “a practice that shouldn’t be allowed to happen” here either.

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