OLD Media Moves

Sponsored content in biz journalism and its ethics

July 26, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

Michael Sebastian of Advertising Age writes about Business Insider’s “Future of Business” section sponsored by SAP and how the software company has tbe power to veto articles about competitors.

Sebastian writes, “So far Business Insider has selected appropriate articles, so SAP has not used its veto, Ms. Larsen said. And Business Insider President Julie Hansen said the arrangement only makes sense.

“‘I can’t imagine why we would force someone to sponsor a piece of content that they disagree with or are opposed to,’ Ms. Hansen said. ‘We can cover their competitors all night and day on the site and we do, but why would anyone in their right minds sponsor a story about their competitors?’

“Critics, though, said the arrangement blurs the line that should divide newsrooms and ad sales. ‘It’s not really the future of business if ‘The Future of Business’ has to ignore 10% of the companies out there,’ said George Freeman, an attorney with Jenner & Block and former longtime counsel at The New York Times. ‘They’re subscribing to bias rules that are set down by their sponsor advertisers.’

“Magazines and newspapers have long run advertorials that resemble editorial more or less as closely as publishers permit. More recently websites like BuzzFeed have focused on sponsored content, now cast as ‘native advertising,’ arguing that it serves both readers and marketers better than traditional banner ads and boxes.

“It’s unclear how much editorial independence readers expect, however, from a sponsored section mixing newsroom coverage with posts marked as paid. The Wall Street Journal publishes three special sections underwritten by Deloitte — Risk and Compliance, CIO Journal and CFO Journal — where editorial stories by Journal reporters run alongside a box of content marked as sponsored. But Deloitte has no influence over which editorial stories appear, a Wall Street Journal spokeswoman said.”

Read more here.

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