OLD Media Moves

Just be transparent about it

October 28, 2012

Posted by Adam Levy

A growing trend in journalism revolves around branded or sponsored content — individuals or companies pay to place their editorial creations alongside the “real” journalism.

It’s not new; advertorials have been around for a while.

But more and more websites are allowing it — even some run by major news organizations — and the line is blurring. It’s not always clear what’s “real” and what’s someone with an agenda is placing.

On the surface, I don’t mind it. Yes, I know, it runs smack into the basic tenet of journalistic independence and all that. But, if it’s clearly labeled as a story told by a company and paid for by them than I don’t see the issue.

Last year, When Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn toured the carmaker’s earthquake-damaged plant in Japan a camera crew followed him around. That crew was in-house employees of Nissan’s newsroom. The content was posted on the company’s website and shown on YouTube. It was well done. I watched it.

Why not take the initiative and create your own story – about a product, about an issue (climate change, obesity), whatever the case be? In the days of shrinking news holes, I don’t mind companies standing up and going outside the traditional journalism box to tell their story.

I currently have a publicly traded client who is not getting a fair shake in the local media in which they operate. A litigator clearly has the reporter wrapped around his finger; the newspaper’s editor is not interested in hearing the other side of the story. In these cases, I believe a company should create its own medium. I don’t mind recommending a pay-for-play situation.

What I do mind is when the line is blurred and when I can’t tell when the content is company produced. I don’t want to name any names here, but on some sites (yes, major big journalistic enterprise ones), it’s hard to tell the difference.

That’s disingenuous. Clearly state who is writing this and who the author is working for and then – if the story is well presented – you’ll have an audience of at least one.

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