Agreed re the need — and our demand — for transparency. Agreed we should not allow publishers being less-than-straightforward to hide behind the guise of “people can figure this stuff out.” Agreed re the impact on the skills, voice, and brand value being sold. I share your wish for the success of the industry and have had the good fortune of following you, participating in your gatherings, and and putting these “future of news” concepts into action since before your first “Networked Journalism Summit.” Thanks, again, for all of this.
I do think this post is an example of holding digital media to far-higher standards than any other medium is held.
- “You call “E.T.” a movie, but there’s a bag of Reese’s Pieces right there!”
- “You call this American Idol, but Pepsi’s all over the place!”
- “This is Page A1 of The New York Times / Wall Street Journal, but someone’s selling luxury items on it!”
- “You call this a sports radio show, but they’re talking about Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse!”
Sponsored content has been a part of every medium since the birth of that medium — even before anyone called it “advertorial.” In the examples above, there were no obvious demarcations of paid sponsorships — no “ADVERTISEMENT” flashing as E.T. climbed the stairs eating Elliot’s candy; no lower-third noting Simon and Paula were being paid by Pepsi Cola; Salvatore Ferragamo is right under NYT’s front-page stories, today, without especial differentiation from those stories; WFAN made no mention that Boomer and Carton’s steak dinner was bought and paid for by a sponsor.
Should the bar be higher in digital than it is for movies, tv, newspapers, and radio?
Performance expectations re reader engagement, click through rates, viewability, and precision demographic/psychographic targeting are orders of magnitude higher in digital than for any other medium. Here we’re discussing things — native/promoted/sponsored/voice/advertorial — other media do in their daily course of business. Yet we still expect so much more from digital vs these other media — It’s a disconnect, at least.
Agreed that advertorial is not the salvation — it’s playing a part, though. (c.f. “Nothing will work, but everything might.”)
(TRANSPARENCY/DISCLOSURE: I helped create the platform that has become BrandVoice. I have not been with the Forbes team for several years. I’ve created sponsored/advertorial platforms/programs for other publishers, too.)