Will Time Inc.’s Branded ‘New Famous’ Platform Run Afoul of FTC?

Time Inc. announced today that its upcoming mobile-first video platform dedicated to the “new famous” now has a name, Instant, as well as an editorial team led by Kirstin Benson, formerly of social media service WhoSay.

First unveiled, sans name, at Time Inc.’s NewFronts presentation a week and a half ago, Instant will focus on news and features about digital influencers on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, YouNow, Vine and other emerging social platforms.

The public will get its first look at the platform at VidCon 2016 in Anaheim, Ca., June 23–25. Until then, there’s an interesting reveal to ponder buried deeper in the press release.

The publishing giant boasts that Instant will be a “100% native and branded advertising-driven product, with the ad product a seamless part of the editorial offering.” That has the potential to raise the ire of the FTC, which has been cracking down on digital video efforts that don’t sufficiently disclose their brand ties, resulting in recent settlements from Machinima and Lord & Taylor.

The idea that branded content may be presented as news raises some even deeper ethical questions, especially given that the primary consumers of Instant’s content are likely to be underage.

Will Lee, digital editorial director for Time Inc. brands People and Entertainment Weekly, insisted it won’t be an issue.

“Time Inc. has very well-defined guidelines about native and branded content and its labeling, and Instant will comply in every instance with our company’s policies,” Lee told VideoInk via email.

When asked in a follow-up email if the news segments will be “brought to you by” or feature stories paid for and about brand products, and how the specific Time Inc. guidelines regarding such content will be implemented on Instant, a spokesperson responded that “news content will be, as it is for People and EW and all Time Inc. brands, distinct from native advertising.”

The platform will feature a daily lineup of snackable, shareable videos, dubbed “Instants,” covering such verticals as entertainment, beauty, fashion, food and social media that will be created and curated by the Instant editorial team, led by Benson (who will report to Lee), along with established and emerging digital stars. The platform promises “a native app-like experience directly in the mobile browser, with no extra download required,” that allows users to engage directly with videos.

Time Inc. brands People and Entertainment Weekly will showcase Instant content across their websites, social channels and print editions. Instant is also working with HelloGiggles, the female millennial-targeting brand acquired by Time Inc. in October 2015, as a launch partner to develop and produce programming, audience strategy and experiential initiatives.

“Digital artists are the most explosive and addictive phenomenon in celebrity and entertainment today,” said Lee in a statement. “Instant will be the first and foremost platform for and by these creators, with a beautiful new consumption experience for our audience.”

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