“The Reader Must Never Be Confused About The Source Of Content”


The great Jeff Jarvis takes on “sponsored content”. It’s good to have a giant in the world of online journalism weigh in on a subject so many media companies are so conveniently not writing or talking about. And he’s worried:

First, let me say that I think we in news became haughty and fetishistic about our church/state walls. The reason I teach entrepreneurial journalism is so that students learn about the business of journalism so they can become more responsible stewards of it. I argue that editors, too, must understand the business value and thus sustainability of what they produce.

That said, I worry about journalists who spend one day writing to serve the public and the next writing to serve sponsors. News organizations should never do that with staff, but I’m sorry to say that today, a few do. Freelance journalists are also turning to making sponsored content to pay the bills.

Name names, Jeff! Which news organizations have reporters who also write or edit ad copy? We need to warn their readers. The core principle here has to do with integrity as well as survival. Besides, it’s a losing game in the end:

Brands are chasing the wrong goal. Marketers shouldn’t want to make content. Don’t they know that content is a lousy business? As adman Rishad Tobaccowala said to me in an email, content is not scalable for advertisers, either. He says the future of marketing isn’t advertising but utilities and services. I say the same for news: It is a service.

(Image from The Onion)