The Tail Becomes The Dog

Mar 15 2014 @ 2:27pm

Jack Shafer reviews Cynthia B. Meyers’ new book, A Word From Our Sponsor: Admen, Advertising, and the Golden Age of Radio, which examines the longstanding entanglement of the media and advertising industries:

In Meyers’ view, advertising is not something appended to radio and TV broadcasts or shimmied into the pages of newspapers and magazines. Advertising has been both the dog wagging the tail and the tail wagging the dog, sometimes occupying points in between, its symbiotic relationship with popular media forever ebbing and cresting. And while the past never predicts the future, this book gives readers a peak around the media future’s corner. …

I’m no media purist. Like Meyers, I appreciate that advertising has never stood outside news creation. Without advertising, the daily newspaper, the news broadcast, the news magazine and news on the Web would scarcely exist. One of the things that has prevented advertisers and their clients from controlling the whole ball of wax in the past has been the sheer capital costs of building out a newspaper — its presses, circulation, ad sales, news collection, etc. But the affordability of Web, which has benefited such new entrants as Gawker, Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Vox and the rest, will also benefit advertisers and their clients. If the advertising industrial complex masters editorial creation in a future media season — becoming such a big dog that it needs no tail to wag — old news hands might come to regard the era in which gobs of sponsored content propped up ailing news properties as “the good old days.”

When even the lefty Guardian is now merged with Unilever, I think it’s already here. Check out this breathless piece of enthusiasm about the merging of journalism and advertizing. And, yes, it was a sponsored post.