A New Euphemism: “Story Advertising”

They keep coming up with ways to camouflage the out-sourcing of journalism to advertising, don’t they? Check out this screen shot of the NRO home-page this morning:

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The reader has to glean what is an ad and what is an article by those two tiny little icons at the top right. Buried in a Washington Post story on DC’s ABC affiliate, WJLA, is this little nugget:

Newsroom employees say they were alarmed last month by comments made by David Smith in an introductory staff meeting. According to several employees, Smith repeatedly said the station’s newsroom would “work for” its advertising-sales department … The apparent blending of news and advertising has been evident in some parts of the station’s newscasts. WJLA’s morning news has aired footage from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and its anchors have mentioned a tourism promotion in conjunction with the Myrtle Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The tourism organization has been running a similar promotion with other Sinclair-owned stations.

Then a new Sunday magazine in California is experimenting with this:

For Nest, the maker of connected home devices that was acquired by Google, California Sunday enlisted artists and illustrators to come up with artwork centered on the idea of home, according to Edwards. Nest picked the ones they liked, which will run in the magazine labeled “Commissioned by Nest,” followed by a page with standard Nest creative on the same theme.

For another, Lexus’ hybrid line, the magazine commissioned travel articles on California day trips, accompanied by original photography. Lexus was allowed to pick the destinations and be included in the photo but otherwise remained uninvolved in the content creation, Edwards said. The articles are running on one right-hand page, followed by a traditional brand ad on the next right-hand page.

What’s notable is that this kind of thing – once utterly unthinkable in ethical journalism – is now completely routine. Swisher notes:

As to the “story advertising,” Edwards correctly noted that this is just par for the course going forward in publishing, although that does not mean the ads need to be boring.

I’m not sure that’s exactly the problem.