The line between editorial content and advertising is growing increasingly thinner, as it is becoming a more common practice for media teams to bring in copywriters to create the sponsored posts that appear alongside their regular features, Adage reports.
Advertorials and native advertising are hardly a new concept in the online media world, but typically advertisements and journalistic content are clearly delineated. At some sites, such as Mashable, there are two completely separate teams responsible for each aspect. However, advertisers are allowed to “tweak” the stories that appear around their sponsored content, which typically includes the brand that’s advertising being given a list of stories and being allowed to choose which appear alongside their advertorials or sponsored posts.
For Mashable and many other publishers, sponsored content is clearly delineated by specific titles and formatting—so any careful reader can tell which content is standard editorial and what is paid for by an advertiser. What’s more, some publishers, such as BuzzFeed, have long advocated sponsored posts as a method of monetization, but they maintain a wall between their content and their advertising by clearly indicating which posts are sponsored.
However, some publishers, such as Condé Nast’s Details magazine, have begun to develop a relationship with various popular bloggers that bridges the gap between editorial and sponsored posts. The brands featured in these posts don’t purchase posts directly, but their inclusion is predicated based on the brand’s actual ad buys in Details (if a label purchases ad space, they can be featured in the blogger section). What’s more, bloggers have long been asked to contribute to various publications or create reviews without actual pay. Instead, they are given various freebies from brands, ranging from low-cost consumer packaged goods to high-end appliances and apparel.
From a content marketer’s perspective, this shift can be a double-edged sword. While it creates new opportunities for both content placement and monetization, it also may lower consumer trust if the relationship between the publication and the advertiser isn’t properly disclosed.
Realistically, for many publications, it does make financial sense to have reporters handle the sponsored content as well — after all, there is only so much room in the total production budget for copywriting. However, in these days of paying for page views and judging performance by clicks and reach, is breaking down the wall between editorial and advertorial a dangerous step?
Photo credit: Flickr