Explainer Mailbag: Ad it up.

Explainer Mailbag: Ad it up.

Explainer Mailbag: Ad it up.

Answers to your questions about the news.
Feb. 15 2002 6:16 PM

Explainer Mailbag: Ad It Up

In this week's column on the Oscars, Explainer wrote, "Actors cannot be nominated for more than one award." In context, Explainer meant for the same performance, as this reader pointed out. But out of context, the statement is false.

So let's clarify. For one performance, actors cannot be nominated for more than one award—a rule that was enacted after Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for both best actor and best supporting actor for his role in the 1944 movie Going My Way. (He won for best supporting actor.) Nor can an actor be nominated twice in any single category. But if an actor or actress has two exemplary performances in a single year, she can be nominated for two separate awards—both the leading and the supporting Oscars. This has happened a number of times, most recently in 1993 when both Holly Hunter (The Piano and The Firm) and Emma Thompson (The Remains of the Day and In the Name of the Father) pulled it off.

Several readers want to know how much Enron gave to all those congressional committees. Click here for detailed information about six committees from the Center for Responsive Politics.


Reader Nick Hadwick asks about Diarist Joseph Weisberg and Slate chief political correspondent Jacob Weisberg. Yes Related or No Relation? Answer: They're brothers.

And while we're on the topic, Explainer is often asked about John Zogby, the pollster, and James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute. They're brothers, too. But the nefarious connections don't stop there. Jim Zogby was also the Little League Baseball coach of Slate contributor Josh Foer—himself the subject of a previous "Yes Related" mailbag!

Finally, Jennifer Cowan asks: "How are the books advertised at the bottom of Slate articles chosen? Is there a connection with the article? Sometimes they appear to be related, but oftentimes the juxtaposition is hilarious. And advertising Inventing Al Gore at the bottom of the 'Chatterbox' article on plagiarism is just plain nasty."

Here's the answer: Slate assigns numeric values to every department in the magazine. These numbers reflect broad subject matter, such as "communicating," or "gossip," or "entertainment." When a reader clicks on a Slate page, the MSN Shopping ad engine then serves up an ad based on the page's subject matter, as divined from the department's numeric value.

"In some instances, the match is perfect because we have been able to target the values very specifically to that department," Slate Associate Publisher Cyrus Krohn says. "For instance, Tuesday Morning Quarterback should always pull a sports offer from the ad engine." But the opposite can be true for loosely defined departments in Slate, such as Explainer or Chatterbox.

"Basically a computer is making the decision on what ad to serve based on the pre-defined subject matter of the host page," Krohn says. "That is not the case for any ads on Slate other than the shopping ads at the bottom of the page." So whenever you see a particularly funny juxtaposition, remember that it's because the computer's sense of humor isn't as finally attuned as yours.