Last Monday, we examined how to decide if an organization wants anything from the visitors to their site. This week’s post focuses on funding sources and their function as a possible conflict of interest. All websites receive funding from somewhere, whether this is from an individual running the site, donations, a corporate entity, or a Super PAC. It is important to realize that the writer(s) or website owners may be tempted to spread favorable information as a condition of maintaining support from their funders. Even respected newspapers and journals gain funding through native advertising. If you are unfamiliar with the term native advertising, take a look at the hyperlinked article from Content Marketing Institute.
Now, back to the American Lung Association website. ALA (2012) receives funding through various channels within the public and private sectors. According to one of their most recent financial statements, the bulk of funding comes from program reimbursements from chartered associations, donated media, program service contracts, and contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations. Smaller sources of funding include federal grants and bequests (p. 8). In the later part of 2012, ALA and Lilly Oncology launched a jointly funded interactive learning website “Facing Lung Cancer: Support from Day One” (American Lung Association, 2012, p. 2). “As one of the top 10 oncology companies in the world, Lilly Oncology focuses on speeding innovation and improving outcomes for individual patients, and boast one of the largest clinical pipelines in the oncology industry” (Eli Lilly and Company, 2015). Advertised on the ALA website, the new website functions as an off-site tool for those diagnosed with lung cancer, their friends and families, as well as health professionals.
While it is reasonable to expect that the ALA may pander to Lilly Oncology or Eli Lilly, this does not seem to be the case. The jointly funded website does mention information on lung cancer screening, clinical trials, and current research. However, I have yet to find any mention or recommendation to use a particular provider. Lungforce.org is another awareness website, specifically for women, run by the ALA. Lilly Oncology is clearly listed as one of their many sponsors. As a way to avoid undue influence from their sponsors, The American Lung Association insulates themselves by avoiding endorsements of “any specific commercial product mentioned on the American Lung Association Website or any commercial products linked to by this Website” (American Lung Association, 2015g).
*The Eclectic Data Hunter is not affiliated with the organization or website used in this post. All rights belong to their respective owners and authors. Usage does not convey endorsement. Use of the mentioned and hyperlinked websites are for educational purposes only.
If you have questions about the series or a particular website, please comment below or send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.