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Today I learned a hard, valuable lesson about what I do here at Bleacher Nation. I know some of you will think that I’m being dramatic or too hard on myself, but I’m not. I screwed up today, and I have some explaining and apologizing to do.

For those who missed it, I wrote today about an alleged conversation that a BN’er overheard in his apartment building. The conversation involved Carlos Marmol and his agents, and the possibility of him being traded from the Cubs. The BN’er tweeted the information, and after considering its newsworthiness, I ran with it. As I do with that kind of thing, I threw up the usual caveats: I can’t verify this. I wasn’t there. The BN’er may have misheard. Etc., etc. Given the seriousness of the quotes involved, that’s when my red flag should have gone up.

To my mind, what I was writing about was the simple fact that someone out there in the Twitterverse says he heard these things. I was not writing about the fact that Marmol definitely did say them. It was like writing that someone says he saw Theo Epstein in a Starbucks, even if I can’t verify that he was actually there. The mere fact that someone is saying it is interesting and newsworthy.

But that was completely unfair of me. When I write something like that, I have to understand that it will be read as “Marmol did say these things, because I’m a professional writer and I wouldn’t write it if he didn’t say it.” It was read that way by many people, in large part because, after weighing the evidence, I said I had no reason to doubt that Marmol had actually said these things or had this meeting. The truth, of course, is that I don’t *really* know it, and I said as much. I know only that someone Tweeted it. And shouldn’t I hold myself to a higher standard than that?

Here’s the bottom line:

It is unfair for me to hide behind “well, I was simply writing about what someone else said, not claiming that the person actually said it,” and then simultaneously ask to be treated as a professional. I can have one or the other, but not both. This dichotomy didn’t occur to me until I was getting blasted for what I’d done, and that is my biggest failing: I just didn’t get it. We learn from our mistakes, and I’m learning. But this is a lesson I probably should have already understood. I should have been the second guy, not the first guy. For that, I apologize to Carlos Marmol, to the Cubs, and to you. I will do better next time.

The truth is, navigating this new media landscape is really freaking hard.

I started this site more than four years ago, when I was an anonymous lawyer in Ohio just having some fun in his spare time. You write from a very, very different perspective when that’s the case. And that lasted for several years. I grew up as a blogger in a world where I was divorced, by one layer, from the people/stories/rumors/whatever that I was writing about. I didn’t have, and couldn’t have, access, and that informed the way I wrote. If something was out there to be discussed, well, damnit, I was going to discuss it. This is the Internet, right? The Cubs didn’t have a clue who I was or care a lick about what I said, so I could write whatever and however I wanted. I think I was always fair, but I probably wasn’t always thoughtful. I had that freedom.

It can be hard to unlearn your previous process, especially when the “learning” is so very public.

Bleacher Nation has grown very large. It is widely read, both in the volume of Cubs fans, and the types of people who read it. I wouldn’t say that I sometimes forget that fact, but sometimes I don’t consider the implications of that fact when I write. As I swiftly move to cover something breaking or fresh, I often reside inside my “blogger” helmet, where I’m just writing for a concentrated contingent of hardcore fans who understand that I’m just shooting from the hip, because that’s what “bloggers” do.

I can’t keep doing that. Sure, I can – and will – still write “differently” about the Cubs than traditional media, but I’ve got to stop thinking of myself as operating in an insular bubble. When I write something – especially something about a player allegedly saying he wants out of town – I have to realize that it’s going to spread widely. That means I have certain responsibilities, whether I choose them or not. The greatest responsibility I have is to be fair in everything I write. That’s a responsibility I failed today, and I’m getting slapped with a hard lesson as a result.

If I had an opportunity to do today all over, I would have figured out a way to get in contact with someone, anyone about the alleged meeting, and I would have asked some questions. The fact that I’m not entirely sure who I would have contacted – I don’t have a lengthy rolodex of numbers, but I’m sure I could have figured something out – is just an excuse, and I’m not going to make it. In my do-over, I would have found someone at the Cubs to offer a comment, or someone at Marmol’s agency. Yes, they would have likely denied the story and suggested that there was no meat there to write about. They might have been right, and the story might never have been written. But at least then, if I chose to write the story anyway, it would have been fair. What I wrote today was not fair to Carlos Marmol, the Cubs, or to you.

For that, I am sorry. I’m always learning and trying to do my best.

  • Tommy

    Brett – my first thought when I read that was that it was unlike you to post an article based on a twitter hearsay, but I have read enough of what you write to understand that you’re pretty thoughtful before posting things.

    As for the apology – that was well written and in character with your normal SOP. Safe to say that if this is the worst mistake you make, I’d say you’re doing pretty well. You’re a standup guy, Brett – nicely done.

  • DarthHater

    I think it’s time for you to follow in Ian Stewarts’ footsteps and close your Twitter account, Bert. :-P

    • Tommy

      Ian Stewart closed his Twitter account? Maybe he’s finally going to start concentrating on baseball!

  • Dustin S

    One more thought on this to make you feel better. Recently a certain very popular and well-known Hollywood news/rumor site posted an article about a famous rapper claiming that he was dying in a hospital and being read his last rites based on info a twitter post. They jumped the gun and he totally recovered, was not that close to death, and was never actually read his last rites. What did they do? They simply removed the original article and never apologized. I think you hold BN to a much higher standard, and you definitely took the high road.

  • Chef Brian

    Aww hell, you had a bad day at the office. Dust yourself off and get back at it. We all make mistakes man. You do a nice job here.

  • Doug P

    Long-time reader of BN, and a long-time lurker.

    Here’s the part I don’t get about this whole saga. Does anyone seriously believe Marmol when he talks about how happy he is to be in Chicago? How he’ll be satisfied pitching wherever the organization wants him to be pitching?

    Of course he refutes a report that the casual fan will use as ammunition for the next round of booing. It’s what we expect athletes to say. But the fact is that a fresh start for him would be best. The organization has been trying (unsuccessfully) to trade him for the better part of a year so clearly the feeling is mutual.

    He should want to start over. He should want to pitch for a team that will make him their closer. He should want to pitch for a contender. He should want ALL of those things.

    I have no doubt that the conversation that was overheard was accurate in meaning if not in direct quotes. It’s unfortunate that the “official” media’s direct access to the player and his agents allows for the “official” story to be pre-meditated and predictable. Is their story accurate? Sure, it’s what the player and his agents told them. So it must be true.

    But that doesn’t make your story any less true.

    Keep up the good work, Brett.

  • cubzfan23

    Well said Brett. Were all human and make mistakes… Atleast you have admitted it and apologized. more than alot of people would do.

  • http://Bleachernation Loyal100more

    Brett… With all the rumors, and careless “news” that gets thrown out there, and quickly scooped up by gossip junkees like me, I’d say you hold an exceptional standard. I’ve been a BNer for almost 3 years now, and as bad as this team has been the last few years, I still am a devoted cub fan. Without you and Luke keeping this site full of info on a daily basis, I would simply would stop watching games and really be disgruntled as being a cub fan does quite often.
    Your appology is accepted I’m sure by all your loyal readers. I think you write and cover stories exceptionally. your never dry, and always just as biased and excited by cubs news as I am. Striving to provide news even gossip and hearsay is a total science. Trying to stay professional is often viewed by writers as secondary to being the provider of inside info before anyone else. I’m glad to see you take it do seriously… Your site is excellent and your coverage of all things cubs, has NO equal! Don’t know what I’d do without BN. Keep up the excellent work!

  • http://www.cwsnaturally.com Evolution

    Oh, please…

    This site is all about reporting on ONE THING. We’re here because we live for the minutiae, and you succeed in providing it without the slightest hint of schadenfreude.

    Decency and good intentions buy an awful lot of currency…

    Everyone relax their cracks and let’s get back to sixth place.

  • http://Bleachernation Loyal100more

    As far as marmol is concerned… He owes cub fans an appology for being SO horrible.

  • http://Bleachernation Loyal100more

    Next time I read an artical about marmol I hope it’s a trade story

  • dumbledoresacubsfan

    Brett, I’ve read through a great many of your readers’ comments now and must say, I’m probably going to be repeating a few of them–but it’s not like it matters because I doubt you’re really reading them by now anyways. haha.

    But I do believe this apology your issuing is unnecessary–though it’s super classy. You really are a stand-up guy and a true professional; this *blip,* if you can even call it that, does nothing to the way I look at you.

    I view what happened as true journalism. Life isn’t fair to everyone, and journalism most certainly isn’t. When a writer gets a story, a writer must go with the story. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and that’s it. Period. As a journalist, providing news to a great many readers, your duty lies in your ability to convey whatever news is out there through a reader-friendly medium. You do that daily and we love your blog for it.

    Marmol isn’t owed anything from you or any other journalist. Last I checked, journalists writing for TIME don’t apologize to the President when they rip him–and the President is substantially more important than Marmol, who commands respect from literally no one.

    Don’t sell yourself short, Brett, you’re great at what you do. Journalists work under different rules. Rules do not equal morals. You can apologize if you believe you worked outside your own moral obligations, but you did not work outside of your job obligations.

    I hope what I’ve said makes sense. :)

  • Alex

    Very brave to be accountable.Too many would have doubled down on that questionable journalism. Much respect

  • Kev

    So…. it sounds like you heard from Marmol’s lawyer(s)? Maybe?

    If so, fuck that. You accurately reported the entire story as hearsay, which mainstream (and professional) sources do *all the time*. I see no reason why you should have to issue any sort of apology for that. Marmol is probably just nervous because he’s aware of how cutthroat the fans in Chicago can be, and if word got out that he wanted to leave the city (which he almost certainly does), they’d be even more cruel to him.

    I don’t know all the facts here, but from my perspective, you’re getting picked on because this blog garners some attention, but isn’t mainstream, and thus those who don’t like your hearsay story are more apt to jump all over it.

    This speculation could all be totally wrong, of course, in which case, I’m just generally intrigued to know what went down today .

    • Kyle

      For the record, caveating that you are just reporting what someone said does not protect you from a libel suit. Repeating the libel is reporting the libel. “X says” does not make you immune (unless X is a public official).

      Not that this was libel.

      • Die hard

        Yes but truth is defense

        • JulioZuleta

          Truth is not an absolute defense. Obviously he didn’t hear from Marmol’s lawyers. There was nothing in the slightest bit wrong with it in that sense. It’s just like the Starbucks thing, which the entire city ran with. I don’t really think it’s much of a story even if he did say it; if I was in his shoes I’d be anxious to get out too. That said, of course he would deny it.

          • Kyle

            Truth is an absolute defense for a libel claim.

            • JulioZuleta

              Not since 2009.

              • JulioZuleta

                Pretty much can only happen with employers mass publishing about an employee. If they think it’s done with malicious intent, they can be guilty even if it’s a 100% true statement. I listened to a panel of judges discuss this about 3 weeks ago. It’s evolving, but it’s real.

            • JulioZuleta

              A salesman was fired for embezzlement. The company released a newsletter saying he was fired for embezzlement. He sued for libel and won. Another one, a guy missed 2 months with a flare up of some STD (seriously) and the company published in an e-mail “welcome back so and so, who returned to work last week after his battle with venereal disease.” Could found libel and invasion of privacy and allowed it.

              • Kyle

                Citations needed.

                Invasion of privacy and libel aren’t the same thing.

                • JulioZuleta

                  I’m well aware of that, Kyle.
                  Noonan v. Staples, 556 F.3d 20
                  “…law, however, recognizes a narrow exception to this defense: the truth or falsity of the statement is immaterial, and the libel action may proceed, if the plaintiff can show that the defendant acted with “actual malice” in publishing the statement. White, 809 N.E.2d at 1036 n. 4 (citing Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, § 92).”

                  • Kyle

                    No fair. That case post-dates my A in communications law.

                    That looks more like a technicality than any sort of precedent.

                    http://www.dmlp.org/blog/2009/case-upended-truth-defense-libel-actions-ends-jury-verdict-defendant

                    It was based on a 1902 Massachusetts state law that would probably have been ruled unconstitutional in this matter had Staples brought up the correct defense in court.

                    Since Brett does not reside in Massachusetts and I have confidence in his lawyering abilities such that he would invoke a First Amendment defense, he should be fine.

                    • JulioZuleta

                      Yeah, it’s not great precedent at all. But it was a pretty huge deal at the time and the judges (one of whom is may boss for the Summer) said that the idea is starting to take hold and that we might see more decisions that are similar, especially in the employer/employee context. Obviously, the major concern is the effect it could have on media publications, but it’s gaining some steam. My judge is already trying to get me to use it as my Law Review topic (and interview her to be my main resource for it). I don’t really think there’s enough out there yet to justify an article, but maybe that’s even more of a reason to do it.

                    • JulioZuleta

                      (I know I have mentioned on here where I go to school, and I know a few other commenters go there, and I know Law Review hasn’t been announced yet…but I’m ppprrreeettttttyyy confident I’ll qualify (I’d have to have a pretty drastic drop, and I think my exams have gone well (one more Friday, which I should be cramming for right now))). I only say this because I would not be surprised if someone jumped down my throat for that statement above about choosing a topic.

                    • JulioZuleta

                      But really, how does a company as big as Staples have such incompetent counsel?

                    • Kyle

                      I meant to call “no joy” on anything before 2006, when I took comm law. My bad.

      • Gretchen

        1. He didn’t hear from any lawyers — this is just Brett being Brett.
        2. As you’ll recall, his former life was BigLaw … he knows the meaning of libel ;)

        The Wife

        • Cubbie Blues

          You should be proud of The Husband. He is a good upstanding man.

  • Die hard

    Doing the same Woodward and Bernstein became household names leading to book and movie royalties— something to look forward to

  • Mooks

    Chalk it up as a blown save..you get back on the mound and get it right next time. I really do not care for many self important bloggers that just spew crap and insult peoples opinions. You are not just some guy full of hot air. You are careful and respectful of coulds.mights, and allegeds…it happens. Nobody wants to be embarrassed even if what was said is 100% accurate..I get the other side of it but you owned up to your mistake and were far more hard on yourself than most anyone would. Thanks for all that you do and Thanks( even though I don’t think you needed to go to the lengths you did) for being a stand up guy and not disappointing me in who this Brett is…and he is not some jag off that writes whatever without care of letting facts get in the way of a good story.. Thanks again.

    • sdcoddi

      Heck…even marmol is known to blow a save every now an then!

  • Stevie B

    Isn’t it great…..the fact that we all,here on BN are so into the Chicago Cubs that this little bit of drama consumes us so much that a blogger pours his heart out to apologize to the followers of said blog, and to a player he has never met, and most likely will not be on this roster in a few weeks?
    Bless you Brett.

  • Tony

    Brett,
    You’re apology says alot about your character. I always enjoy reading your commentary. I will admit that I read the headlines to the Marmol article, but not the article itself. My first thought when seeing the headlines was that Marmol’s conversation with his agent is privileged. My advice to you is to just keep up the work that you put in. I check BN at least 3 times daily for your thoughts. I still love BN.

  • aCubsFan

    And, you wonder why Paul Sullivan dinged over Twitter a month or so ago. Also, the other day you complained that no one from the Cubs sent you a press release about the contract extension for Rizzo.

    This situation is a big reason why mainstream media outlets have such disdain for bloggers. If you want to be taken serious, you might want to start developing sources and checking with these sources before written about a ’3rd hand’ rumor.

    • Die hard

      Marmol could have been referring to the lobby when saying he wanted to get out of there

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The mainstream media disdains blogging because it’s a distinct threat to them. Well, that and the lack of any accountability: unless the blogger chooses to hold him/herself so! (Like, here, and, um…. well, I’m sure that there is another blogger out there who holds himself accountable. Nate Silver, maybe, if he’s ever wrong!)

      However, I think that this is forgivable simply because part of the purpose of blogging is to report what people *think* is happening. A lot of times it is wrong. The responsible blogger faces a potential Catch-22 situation: if you wait for it to be verified, then it’s no longer news; while it’s news, it has yet to be verified.

      Now, the owning up to the mistake (and not throwing a source under a bus) is rather novel, and rather admirable.

      • JulioZuleta

        The only thing I use newspapers for is to cover up the sink while I buzz my head. I go down to the corner of Division and Dearborn and grab 3 or 4 Red Eyes, and that usually serves me for a month or two. Other than that and other maintenance related uses, newspapers are pretty much obsolete at this point. THAT’s why they hate bloggers.

        • Cubforlife

          That is bullshit. Readership is up for all types of media. Between web and print delivery readership is higher than ever. Get your facts straight. Why would newspapers be concerned with bloggers. The credibility is and always be with newspapers that actually have a shit load more readers than blogs…

          • JulioZuleta

            Well, literally everything I was just able to find is that overall readership of newspapers, including their digital components, is continuing to decline, and is quite a bit less than it was several years ago. If that wasn’t true, why have so many papers closed/significantly scaled back on operations?

            • Cubbie Blues

              Don’t forget about many have narrower pages and fewer actual pages than they used to.

            • hansman1982

              Well to be fair, I think readership is up…from a couple years ago.

              It’s like saying the Titanic floated an inch up off the sea floor and is steaming along better than ever!

              • cubbyblue

                Wow. Really Hansman,, Intelligence runs deep on thsi site

            • cubbyblue

              Newspapers have scaled back because forever they were cash cows until the collapse in the housing markets and the recession. There is no question home delivery is down simply because of price and everyone who wants to read it for free basicly on the web. The other side of the coin is the hits on newspaper websites is more than they ever received by print readership. It shows a decline in paid circulation because it is not paid, you know people wanting something for nothing. People read and will continue to read newspapers to get news and most always solid news and yes I am a news guy and I know what I am speaking about. At some point, all papers will become more intelligent and lock everyone out who is not paying for it. You will then see revenues go up but most all newspapers are still trying to figure out the best strategy including the paper I am associated with. So you should absolutely continue to buy papers for buzzing your head. We appreciate the revenue.

              • JulioZuleta

                Oh, you must not be from Chicago. The RedEye is free. Just one of those papers that sit in the box.

                • cubbyblue

                  True, I am not from Chicago. Those free little papers are usually just advertise driven and not worth much…

              • Cubbie Blues

                “At some point, all papers will become more intelligent” Well, there are very few showing any signs as of yet.

              • hansman1982

                The drop in newspaper readership happened before the recession.

                • Cubbie Blues

                  There you go using fact and logic. Don’t you know it’s not fair to do that?

                • cubbyblue

                  Bottom line is the hits on the newspaper websites, you know where you acutally go to read a story for free is UP… I didnt say revenue or circulation. I will move forward. It seems you know more about my industry than me.. I know where my cash cow is and I also know where most of the stories from this site come- A newspaper story… Dont hate on where news comes from because without it, we wouldnt be on here .. Later

                  • ssckelley

                    It is funny, I almost never go to a newspaper website unless a site like this links a story that I want to read in detail. These bloggers actually draw more attention to your paper. There are articles that I would have never read had someone like Brett not drawn attention to it.

                  • hansman1982

                    I’m certainly not saying that I know more than you. All I ever said was that readership is up the past couple of years after tanking.

                    You then attacked me, personally, so I showed proof of my statement and then you ran from the argument. I’m certainly not “hating” on the newspapers, they still do a service.

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    Brett always has his trusted sources he will just quote, or he will get info from others and then go back to his trusted sources to verify. Many main stream media members reported similar items that Brett did here today in the same manner about Dempster, Garza, and Soriano. You don’t see them apologizing. It always seems to be about holding the next great scoop. The worst crime today is Brett has a conscience for what he puts out there because he wants to be taken seriously. This all stems from a label he gets, because how he gets his information across. Shit happens. No need to apologize. Lesson learned.

  • Jonathn

    Thanks for the apology, Brett. The mistake says that you’re human. The apology says that you are to be respected and trusted. Now, let’s hope the cubs can hold onto this one run lead so you can post a happy EBS

  • Ash

    Not to beat the baseball analogies to death… but you really only got caught leaning a bit too far off base with this one. You went with your first instinct (which for the record, I still maintain was ok) and after some discussion, you’ve decided that your first instinct was wrong. Don’t let this one incident change how you conduct yourself on this blog. Keep it loose, and have fun. Nothing about today changes the fact that I will still follow BN for it’s insight and timely information.

  • http://weareworkers.com Skooter

    What about the idea that, as a blogger you may from time to time get certain opportunities at news that we would have never received? Marmol is going to deny he said that whether he did or not, no matter what. I would argue that you made the appropriate caveats. You’re not a beat reporter. You’re not granted the access that a Kaplan or Muskatt are going to get. You have to get news where you can. True- twitter is highly dubious a lot of the time. But the pictures were real. I don’t think you did anything wrong, as long as you make those caveats. If people choose to misinterpret you can’t control that. I think you should be less hard on yourself. It is the work of people like you that sometimes gets us the information we never would have gotten. The media as a whole has become very safe and very watered down. A Kaplan might break this story, but not until way after the fact, and the fact remains that he actually may have said these things. I appreciate your vigilance, but you are a blog and as long as you make those caveats I think your decision to run the story is responsible. I believe the slippery slope argument applies here in regards to things we otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. If we wanted to read the tribune or Cubs.com we would be reading those. And in fact we do. I think you should have more faith in your core audience to be able to parse possibly from definitely.

  • jt

    I like many others have long held you, Luke and the set of posters here in high esteem.
    Your public statement as to expected standards is a welcome indication that respect was/is well placed.

  • Die hard

    Now there is a better rumor that may or may not involve Marmol in this piece on Dodgers yesterday ——— the Dodgers have blown five of 14 save opportunities and their relievers have a 4.65 ERA, second-worst in the National League -

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/14/3396204/dodgers-league-gets-tepid-boost.html#storylink=cpy

  • Wyldjimme

    I will probably never get the answer but I would be curious to know if you chose to issue this apology without being prompted or if you were contacted by the team, lawyer, or agent.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No one contacted me. I’m just trying to do the right thing.

  • mybrettjacksonhat

    Late to the party, but this is why Brett is my favorite. The integrity here is deep and Brett’s ability to self-reflect is truly impressive. I wish many others would do what Brett did in this post. I learned a lot tonight. Kudos.

  • Jeffery D.

    I’m not understanding the big deal here. It’s information you deemed credible passed along to us with the pretense of “make of this what you will”; I see no fault on your behalf. Seems the only people upset are those who are either jealous of you, or can be damaged by the truth. There is only one person to benefit from a lie in this situation. Don’t start censoring yourself to appease the jealous. They’re trying to ruin you because of what you do, how you do it, and how incredibly amazing you are at. Keep up the great work, Brett.

  • Ryan

    Brett,

    As a fellow journalist (yes, I’m only 23 and only have been at my job for 6 months, but still)….I can sort of understand the difficulty. But really, what you had was seriously newsworthy. It should have been reported on, as you had what you thought was a credible source.

    As a journalist, you do not owe Carlos Marmol anything. Politician’s and committee staff that I work with in Washington know the game- sometimes, you’re going to stick them because you just have something a source told you.

    The point, which you correctly said in your apology, is the way this was handled. All that should have been done was vet the first source thoroughly, get a quote from Marmol denying it, get a quote from the cubs, and then stick by your source if you believe in that source (with all the caveats implied).

    In reality I think it’s a minor mistake. I really do, and it’s certainly not something to beat yourself up about. I make mistakes every day still, (and my editor loves to tell me that I do.) I come to this site everyday and you are truly a professional and a great writer.

    Best,
    Ryan

    • aCubsFan

      Really this was deemed ‘newsworthy’ how? Was there any checking of sources? Were any calls, texts, Tweets, etc. made to Marmol and his agents … to the Cubs? In the end, they were a bunch of meaningless photos without proper context. To me it sounds like some guy trying to find something that didn’t/doesn’t exist. And lots of egg on a bloggers face. It’s quite telling how Bleachernation is referred to in various articles: ‘clearinghouse,’ ‘aggregator,’ and ‘a website’

  • coal

    Totally classy move. Err on the side of conscience, even if it was unnecessary to apologize.

  • Mat

    As a fellow journalist, I truly appreciate this statement, though I do feel it’s unnecessary, you can’t make everyone happy. As long as you report to the fullest of your ability and knowledge (especially about something as widely assumed as this) then it does not matter what Carlos Marmol says, you are doing your job. He should worry about doing his which he is clearly not doing.

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