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Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 10 2014 @ 12:40pm

A reader says “it’s getting worse” and points to new evidence:

“Good Morning America” interviewed model Gisele Bundchen and Olympic athlete Lindsey Vonn this week about their new Under Armour campaign, but not necessarily for the pure news or entertainment value of it all. At the end of a segment on Friday morning, a voiceover told viewers that “This segment was brought to you by Under Armour.”

In a pair of dual interviews, one that aired Thursday and the other Friday, the women discussed partnering with Under Armour, the power of women, their workout regimens and their own careers. “GMA” has also posted the videos online without mention of any Under Armour support, although Friday’s video has the straightforward headline “Lindsey Vonn and Gisele Bundchen Promote the ‘I Will What I Want’ Campaign.”

An ABC spokeswoman said segments brought to you by marketers are not unusual for “Good Morning America,” but could not point to other examples.

Watch the “segment” for yourself here. Another reader:

I’ve been following the gossip blog, Lainey Gossip, for a while. And they do this thing with sponsored content where they talk about it openly and freely. And they make it fun. But that’s sort of part of the problem with sponsored content. On the other hand, the way they do it feels much more honest and open. And I continue to trust the blog because of their transparency. Here’s the latest example:

Butt season continues! As I mentioned last week Cottonelle approached us to highlight their bum-pampering products by highlighting the best celebrity butts in Hollywood.

This job doesn’t suck. Jacek was quite happy to do extensive research on the subject and eagerly forwarded several recommendations. JLO was our first. Next? Let’s make it fair and celebrate on the men’s side…

Channing Tatum.


And you know, just like JLO, who’s making videos about her “Booty”, I really don’t think Channing Tatum would mind. After all, he gave us an entire movie – over two hours! – to appreciate this body part. He worked hard on this body part. He trained it. He molded it. He danced with it. He TOOK YOUR MONEY WITH IT.

When it’s that valuable, you have to protect it. Even the bums that might not be as perfect as Channing Tatum’s. Cottonelle takes bum service very seriously with their industry-leading products. This is premium bum care, the gold standard of bum appreciation and indulgence.

Then there was HuffPo’s gleeful but very carefully parsed defense of the same practices. I took solace only in the reader comments. Two faves:

Oh, I get it. This is an advertisement for advertisements masquerading as news articles, which is itself masquerading as a news article- about advertisements masquerading as news articles. Very meta. Also kind of nauseating.


I like that the only comment positive about this piece is from the Head of Operations for the site…

Read all of our coverage on the scourge of sponsored content here.

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 31 2014 @ 1:03pm


A reader sends the above screenshot:

Perhaps this has already become the style at other prestigious media outlets, but I think it’s somewhat remarkable that the editors at The New Republic didn’t see fit to tell readers upfront that the article is sponsored content. (I apologize if I’m late to the party on this particular advertorial start on the part of TNR.) There’s no real differences in terms of front style or size with the only real tip-off being the lack of a byline. But I’ve interacted with enough smart people online to know how rarely readers, who aren’t themselves writers in some capacity, actually pay attention to, much less search for, the author to an article.

The sponsored status of the “article” is a little more obvious on the front-page:

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Previously noted examples here of the ever-growing scourge of sponsored content. Update from a reader:

If you think things are weird on the journalism side, try going toward entertainment. New companies are trying deliberately to muddy the waters.

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 3 2014 @ 12:00pm

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A reader writes:

I noticed today that “partner” has invaded the Cheat Sheet at the Daily Beast. When youScreen Shot 2014-07-03 at 1.41.33 AM moved from the Atlantic to DB, I loved the Cheat Sheet as a quick-glance headline source for important news before I delved into more long reads and blogs. Today, they have the #8 spot as an ad for the National Geographic channel special on the 1990s, in addition to all the banner and sidebar ads for the same. It’s bastardizing something unique about their website and a remarkably stupid idea. Why would people who are wanting to read the headlines very quickly, waste their time with labeled “partner” ? We just keep scrolling. They keep missing the point.

Thank you for not seeking to monetize your ideas in such a crass way. I’m a proud subscriber to the Dish and hope that you can remain independent of advertising.

My favorite part of their disclosure? “This content was not necessarily written or created by the Daily Beast editorial team.” It reminds me of one surreal discussion I once had with the Beast’s ad department. I wondered why they couldn’t find an advertiser for the View From Your Window. After a bit, they came back and wondered if we could change the feature to “The View From Your Hotel Window”. There might be a sponsor for that.

Speaking of which, how about this for irony:

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Why not just leave out the middle man and ask GE themselves?

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 24 2014 @ 5:44pm

A reader points up north:

Your watchful eye on the metastasizing world of advertorials and so-called “native ads” is an essential counterpoint to what’s becoming an alarming trend, even outside of US borders. Case in point: a series of unmarked oil industry advertorials that recently made it to print in newspapers owned by Canada’s right-leaning Postmedia. Hawk-eyed readers were able to connect the dots and alerted Advertising Standards Canada (whose webpage is emblazoned with the motto “Truth in Advertising Matters”). After a review, the organization decided not to issue a ruling.

An increasingly desperate oil sands industry is pulling out all the stops to curry public favour with Keystone on wobbly ground and the Northern Gateway pipeline being met with fierce public opposition. It’s discouraging to find that all too many media organizations are willing to undermine the tireless work of their reporters with deceptive advertising practices.

A Canadian economist, Robyn Allan, tried to write a rebuttal to a piece about the oil industry that she read in a Postmedia newspaper:

[She] took issue with the economic claim [that Canada is losing $50-million a day due to limited export markets]. When she submitted an opinion piece in response, she was informed it couldn’t be run because the article she was responding to was actually a paid advertisement.

It wasn’t labeled as such; yet, as our reader noted, Advertising Standards Canada declined to censure Postmedia, which owns nearly every broadsheet daily in the country. Then it happened again – another paid pro-oil-industry piece not labeled as such. It gets better:

Earlier this year, the Vancouver Observer reported on a Postmedia presentation that outlined a content strategy that includes several Financial Post “Special Report” sections, with topics to be arranged by Postmedia and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers [CAPP]. … Add to that the tone of the leaked Postmedia presentation, which is graphically designed to follow the route of a cartoon pipeline (snazzy!) and includes this note from Douglas Kelly, the publisher of the National Post:

From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well being in general. We will work with CAPP to amplify our energy mandate and to be part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.”

Huh. You almost get the impression that Postmedia sees itself as being on the same team as CAPP — which is rather disconcerting.

And the beat goes on.

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  May 9 2014 @ 12:19pm

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Dish readers remain vigilant:

It’s official: the New York Times takes sponsored posts on its regular website. Screenshot attached. Same typeface – pretty sneaky!

How long does it take you to spot it? Update from a reader:

Umm no, it’s not the same typeface for either header or blurb. The font size is about the same but the “PAID POST” is slightly bolder, and the blurb is sans serif whereas blurbs for non-sponsored content is with serifs. That being said, however, due to the font size being the same size and the presentation on the page itself, it does lend itself to deception, despite the slight differences. The sneakiness is putting just enough differences that eagle-eyed readers would spot it but to the casual reader, the difference isn’t enough to highlight that it’s sponsored.

Greater Israel edition:

Zionists are having to think of new, more subtle ways to defend the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians. A new battlefield has opened up in an unlikely place: BuzzFeed, the fast-growing soft Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 2.32.16 PMnews website that rose to prominence by disseminating videos of cute animals, but now has pretensions to serious journalism.

A group called reThink Israel has paid for eleven articles on BuzzFeed in the last two months. The content of the articles — all written in the typical BuzzFeedlisticle” style — is at first glance relatively harmless and apolitical. One is headlined “12 Neighborhoods That’ll Stop You In Your Tracks.” It features photos of trendy neighborhoods in such cities as London, Montreal and Melbourne, along with “Tel Aviv, Israel” and “Haifa, Israel.” Another article promises readers “12 Sounds From Israel You’ll Soon Be Obsessed With,” and then there is “17 reasons Jaffa is the Brooklyn of Israel.” …

The financier of reThink Israel is the American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

At Yeshiva University last October, as reported by Philip Weiss for Mondoweiss, Adelson described reThink Israel as as “an NGO for hasbara” — the Hebrew word Israel uses to describe its official outreach and propaganda. He added: “We’re going to provide information, propaganda if you will. We also say that we’re cool. The beaches are cool, the clubs are cool.” Adelson wants Israel to be “cool” to distract young Americans from Israeli policy.

Update: A reader points to a somewhat related story:

On Wednesday, after the Israeli antitrust authority approved his purchase of two more news outlets, the Jewish American billionaire upped his ante in the country’s media market. Adelson already owns one of the four mainstream newspapers here, a free daily tabloid called Israel Hayom (Israel Today). He started that newspaper in 2007 and helped it grow to have the largest circulation in the country. With his latest purchases, Adelson will now also control the main religious daily, Makor Rishon, which caters to Israel’s Zionist religious right, and NRG, the news Web site of the Maariv newspaper, which has faced a multitude of financial woes in the past few years. While the antitrust authority decided that Adelson’s acquisitions are not crossing any competitive red lines, media watchdogs (and not a few political pundits) worry about Adelson’s growing influence.

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 25 2014 @ 12:21pm

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Alex Mayyasi wonders why that those “recommended links” you see appended to so many stories on legitimate news sites seem to have gotten a pass in the sponsored-content debate:

On one hand, that might be understandable. Taboola links don’t seem nearly as deceptive as a full article. Over email, Taboola CEO Adam Singolda pointed out that companies like Facebook and Google host links or advertisements from Moneynews and the Aftershock Survival Summit. This author’s daily e-mail from The New York Times includes ads for financial products and mortgage sites just as scammy. Is Taboola sponsored content any different from trashy ads?

But in the case of scammy ads, the difference between an ad and a sponsored link is crucial. The illusion of journalistic integrity provided by the news publishers that host these “headlines” is key to the sale of these useless financial products, scam diet pills, and shady mortgage deals. “With Outbrain Amplify,” Outbrain tells customers, “links to your content appear as recommendations on the web’s largest content publishers including sites like Wall Street Journal, Reuters &” Bloomberg NewsThe Atlantic, and the other publications hosting sponsored links are not just hosting advertising for these deceptive sales pitches; they are enabling them.

And the beat goes on.

(Image from Politico)

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 26 2014 @ 3:10pm

A new low: journalism guru, Jim Romenesko – the kind of guy who once would have trashed this kind of thing – runs a sponsored post from the Koch brothers. Update: A reader points out that Romenesko has been posting sponsored content for nearly a year now.

Sponsored Content Watch

Chris Bodenner —  Mar 21 2014 @ 12:32pm
by Chris Bodenner

A reader sees it moving to TV:

With all the discussion about The Atlantic, Buzzfeed and others blurring the line between journalism and sponsored content, I thought this might add to the discussion. Robert Feder is a longtime Chicago media journalist who has moved from his spot at the major papers in town to the blogosphere. This afternoon, he posted this blog post about the disturbing trend of the local Fox affiliate (and to a lesser extent, WGN TV) is airing segments during their news programming that are paid for by companies looking to promote their products. At the end of segments, a brief “this segment was sponsored by [company name]” is all that tips viewers that what they have already watched is not news and should be viewed with a degree of suspicion.

This, to me, is every bit if not more disgusting than the proliferation of sponsored print content, as it is much less obvious than even the best camouflaged sponsored piece on Buzzfeed. Viewers should not have to watch every segment with suspicion that it is a paid piece in case such a revelation is made at the end of a four minute interview. I assume that if it’s happening here, it’s happening elsewhere, and that both chills and repulses me.

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 26 2014 @ 3:41pm

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National Review joins the movement disguising ads as articles.