A few months ago I started this blog. A few weeks ago I bought a domain name. Today I received an e-mail from my father which included a link to this article. It describes a woman who was able to pay her bills with money she earned using Google AdSense (this was, no doubt, a not-so-subtle response to my asking for help with the rent). I am familiar with AdSense, and was initially intrigued by the prospect of bringing in some extra money by doing something that I enjoy, with little extra effort.
For those who may be unfamiliar, the AdSense website states: “Google AdSense is a free, simple way for website publishers of all sizes to earn money by displaying targeted Google ads on their websites. AdSense also lets you provide Google search to your site users, while earning money by displaying Google ads on the search results pages.”
In short, the program allows you to manage ad layout and content. That is, you can pick the ads your readers are interested in, and filter out unwanted ones. You can display Google-sponsored games, and even install mobile-friendly options. The more views you generate, the more money you earn. There are other options available as well, but it was at this point in the registration process that a number of concerns popped into my head.
It has long been acknowledged that physicians who endorse medical devices or pharmaceuticals for-profit have diminished credibility within the medical community. It seriously impacts their clinical judgment when caring for patients, and undermines the altruistic nature of the medical profession. Great lengths have been taken by medical schools, hospitals, and other institutions to prevent medical students from falling prey to the advertising industry, lest it impair the development of objective clinical skills. Similarly, the medical community fights tirelessly against the medical “experts” who advertise drugs and medical devices to patients with little real credibility other than the information supplied by a third party who also pays the bills.
But that’s old news.
The content of my site would automatically draw medical advertisements from AdSense, which, according to current thought, is a direct conflict of interest (and rightfully so). While, yes, I could filter ad content, I don’t want irrelevant ads littering my site either. I tried searching for blog posts and other articles related to the use of third-party advertisers on physician and medical student websites. I couldn’t find anything useful.
That makes this new business.
I seriously doubt I am the only one who has toyed with the idea of displaying ads on my website. I’d also like to think I’m not the only one who has considered the ethical implications of doing so. Or maybe I’m just overthinking it. Sure, I appreciate a sense of entrepreneurship and the ability to make a couple of extra bucks. I also acknowledge that search engine spam hardly carries with it the influence of a major industry, such as that of pharmaceutical marketing. It’s one of the many gray areas of social media that needs to be clarified, especially as more and more physicians are becoming involved in social media to connect with their patients.
All ethical issues aside, when it comes down to it I didn’t start blogging because I wanted to make money; I started blogging because I am genuinely invested in the medical profession and wish to contribute somehow. And again, perhaps I’m thinking too much into things. However, I’d prefer to err on the side of caution.. at least until my parents stop helping me pay the rent.