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.
“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:
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.