One of my favorite Webcomics, the library-themed Unshelved, is doing something that I don't particularly like. This week's entire run of strips is basically a running ad for a sponsor, with the characters extolling the virtues of the sponsor's service.
Unshelved has long had weekly sponsors, with ads running in the feed above the strips, but until now the editorial content of the strips has seemed to be independent.
I understand that it's a tough world out there, and that when creators are trying to make a living at producing a free Webcomic it must be tempting to grab at any source of revenue that comes along. Advertising, merchandise, and personal appearances are all accepted ways of keeping the cash-flow coming; but selling out the actual content of the strip seems like, well, selling out.
Worse, it calls into question the integrity of the rest of the strip. One of Unshelved's most popular features is the Sunday "Book Club" strips, wherein one of the characters of the strip will "book talk" a recommended book. How long until these "Book Club" strips become paid-for by publishers?
Hopefully the Unshelved creators will see that the long-term negatives for doing such a deal outweigh any short-term financial gain.