Search Results For sponsored content

The NYT came up with one today:

Mark Thompson, the company’s chief executive, highlighted digital advertising numbers, specifically noting growth in mobile and video ad sales, as well as native advertising, which are ads that resemble news articles.

I can live with that definition. I just don’t know how the NYT lives with the reality that it is bragging of blurring the lines between advertising and journalism.

Why Sponsored Content Will Win

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 31 2014 @ 12:28pm

Because journalists will make far more money from it than the old, ethical variety. Because no one has come up with a business model that can compete with it for moolah. And, above all, because readers don’t really give a shit:

If people are offended by content marketing, why would a single Purina brand, Beggin’ Strips, have nearly 1.2 million Facebook fans, as Michael Meyer reports in his provocative piece on the subject, when Purina’s hometown paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, can boast a relatively modest 120,000 fans? What’s more, some of the larger corporate newsrooms are producing exponentially more content each day than traditional news outlets.

That doesn’t mean this content is all good, or accurate, or honorable in its alleged attempt to serve its audience. But then again, plenty of work coming out of actual newsrooms doesn’t meet that standard either.

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.

At first, they were never going to do it; then they were going to do it just a little, with very high standards; now, they’re lowering those standards so as to blur even further the difference between an advertisement and an article. And this is the crown jewel of American journalism: the New York Times. AdAge has the scoop:

The New York Times has shrunk the labels that distinguish articles bought by advertisers from articles generated in its newsroom and made the language in the labels less explicit … Recent Paid Posts from Chevron and Netflix have replaced the blue moat that enclosed [an earlier] native ad with a slimmer blue line running only along the top. “Paid For And Posted By” has been trimmed to to “Paid Post,” and in slightly smaller type. The company logos, also slightly smaller, appear in a white bar that’s not as tall as Dell’s dark blue bar. And because Chevron and Netflix didn’t write their Paid Posts, their logos don’t appear by the author’s name. Instead “T Brand Studio,” the unit within the Times that produces content on behalf of advertisers, appears off to the left.

Here’s why:

“Some form of labeling is necessary to make sure no one feels deceived, but beyond that I don’t think they need to have blinking lights,” said Scott Donaton, chief content officer at UM. “In general, if a client is going to create content, they don’t want the thing dressed up in way that pushes audiences away from it,” he added.

So to clearly label an advertisement an advertisement “pushes audiences away.” So the goal is to provide the smallest fig-leaf possible that gives the NYT plausible deniability of outright deception. And that’s entirely because of corporate pressure. Look at this page and see if you think most people would know it’s bought and paid for by an advertiser.

Now check out the Washington Times’ latest gambit with the Washington Redskins:

In 2000, then-editor Wes Pruden of the Washington Times blasted Dan Snyder’s efforts to control the flow of information about the Redskins as “chickenshit” tactics. Last week, the same newspaper agreed to give that same owner unprecedented control over that same flow of information about the same team. And all parties celebrated the deal. “The Washington Times and the Washington Redskins announced a unique partnership that will make the newspaper a content and marketing partner of the team,” said the joint press release.

And check out Condé Nast’s new venture as a marketer for Monsanto:

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Let me repeat: “Each episode will be stylishly arranged in a controlled environment, to create an authoritative and journalistic forum.” If you want your journalism stylishly arranged in a controlled environment to buttress the brand of a corporation, then you know to go read Condé Nast publications.

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:

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 2.51.19 PM

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.

At some point, the shoe was always going to drop on the scam that is “sponsored content” or “native advertising” or “enhanced advertorial techniques” or whatever bullshit word the industry needs to disguise its own ethical collapse. So here’s the breaking news: when you whore out your editorial pages to advertisers, and do your best to merge your own editorial copy with advertising and p.r., readers think less of you, stop trusting you and start suspecting the ethics and source of everything you publish.

Since this truth is hard to accept when your paycheck is at stake, a study was required to discover the bleeding obvious. The IAB/Edelman report questioned 5,000 consumers of news of various kinds. Here’s their bottom line:

The study shows that media companies carry a far higher risk to their reputation and value perception in allowing native advertising than their brand advertisers. However, native advertising on business news, and entertainment news sites, was less problematic than on general news sites. In addition, six out of 10 people visiting general news sites said it was not clear if a brand had paid for the content.

When 60 percent of readers don’t know if the stuff they’re reading is paid for by advertisers or is, you know, what used to be called journalism, we have pretty solid objective proof of the deception inherent in the practice. More to the point, 73 percent of readers say that native advertising adds no value to general news sites. So please spare me the somewhat creepy idea that these exercises in propaganda actually enhance the reader experience. The readers don’t think so.

The study also reveals the ratchet effect of this deal with the devil. Advertisers get a real boost by leeching off the accumulated trust of a publication like, say, Forbes or Buzzfeed, or the Atlantic. But the more sponsored content fills those pages, the less readers trust them. And so the value to advertisers declines as the trust in various publications declines. In this slow circling of the ethical drain, everyone loses, but the advertisers at least get some bang for their buck. The news sites?

Integrity is a really tough thing to get back, isn’t it?

Readers Hate Sponsored Content

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 10 2014 @ 3:54pm

That’s the good news as the journalism industry morphs into a branch of public relations. A new study has followed up on Tony Haile’s evidence that no one reads the damn stuff anyway. Its findings?

Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.
As education level increases, so does mistrust of sponsored content.

So I’m not alone among the consumers of journalism; I’m just almost alone in being a journalist who is publicly prepared to call this ethical swamp what it is. When asked if they would prefer old-fashioned, honest banner ads rather than this morphing of advertising, journalism and PR, the answer is overwhelming: by almost 2 -1 readers preferred traditional advertising.

But the core legal and political question is whether there is active deception going on, in violation of FCC rules. On that level, today’s media machers have some ‘splaining to do:

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 12.43.39 PM

When an industry is engaged in the wholesale deception of its consumers, the public interest is involved. At the very least, it seems to me, we should have Congressional hearings on whether this level of deception can be defended under the law.

Update from a reader:

“But the core legal and political question is whether there is active deception going on, in violation of FCC rules. On that level, today’s media machers have some ‘splaining to do”

Not so fast! The FCC, which regulates radio, TV, and common carriers, does not involve itself with online advertising. Those of us in the Radio/TV industry are familiar with the “sponsorship identification rule,” which requires that advertisers and their related content be identified in those media. There were some serious fines levied recently for this ($44,000 to a Chicago radio station for 11 instances of playing a “news” show that didn’t identify that the content was sponsored, and not actual news). Historically, the practice of payola led to these regulations, to prevent disc jockeys from accepting money to play records and thereby popularize them – a deceptive form of advertising.

Sponsored Content Watch

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 3 2014 @ 12:00pm

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 1.38.03 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 10.00.44 AM

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.

WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger

We’re rounding up as many assessments of Jill Abramson’s abrupt exit from the NYT as we can, so stay tuned. But one thing is worth recalling:

Although both have denied it in public, Thompson and Abramson’s relationship spiraled down over the past year, as Thompson pressed ahead with plans to move the Times into native advertising. “She was morally opposed to that,” an executive said. “She told me it would not happen on her watch.”

But it did, of course, as the philistine from the UK pushed it through. If one factor in Abramson’s firing was her resistance to this unethical and desperate gambit, then it’s all the more depressing. And yes, I thought and think the world of Abramson. And what always struck me about her – apart from her sardonic humor, relentless drawl and revulsion at bullshit – was her transcendence of gender. She leant in at every opportunity. She never accepted a gender double standard for a second – which is why she was a real role model for other women in journalism. I sure hope these virtues – and yes, they’re virtues weren’t behind her demise at the NYT:

As I’ve written before, female leaders are liked best when they lead their organizations not unlike one would lead a casual weekend drum circle—cheerily deferring to others and giving everyone a chance. Meanwhile, they’re resented to a greater degree than their male counterparts when behaving authoritatively. And Abramson, by all accounts, was nothing if not authoritative … Times national editor Alison Mitchell suggested to Capital New York Tuesday that Abramson’s firing “wouldn’t sit well with a broad swath of female Times journalists who saw her as a role model.” But what would be even more demoralizing is if it turns out to be true that a woman as powerful as Abramson was punished for being “pushy”—and, worse yet, if the pay gap between the two editors was real.

And this is troubling to me:

In a controversial 2013 piece in Politico, Dylan Byers wrote: “At times, [staffers] say, her attitude toward editors and reporters leaves everyone feeling demoralized; on other occasions, she can seem disengaged or uncaring.”

But a look at the examples he gave shows just how gendered these discussions can get. In one instance, Abramson reportedly ordered an editor to leave a meeting to change a stale photo on the newspaper’s homepage. That was played in the article as proof of Abramson’s brusque, demoralizing style. But compare that to this anecdote about how Tim Cook, head of Apple, dealt with a manufacturing problem in China.

Cook forced an executive to leave the meeting to get on a plane to China, without the dude even changing his clothes. I doubt if that was regarded as “pushy”. Look: no woman has a right to keep a job she’s doing poorly in because she’s a woman. But Abramson’s management of the NYT coincided with relative success in an extremely troubled time in media – and certainly seemed to me, as a loyal subscriber, to be producing an excellent paper. The combination of that record and yesterday’s brutal, near-vindictive public firing suggests something awry. I’d say that at the very least, we need to find out exactly what the pay disparity may have been between Abramson and her predecessor, Keller. And I’d also say that this story may get some more legs if the tiny few who know all about it start to leak.

(Photo: Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson attends the WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger at Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 7, 2013 in New York City. By Brad Barket/Getty Images for WIRED.)