May 29, 2013 by Tamara Piety
Apparently this is what is known as “native advertising.” Or according to a source quoted in this article from Advertising Age, native advertising involves “ad strategies that allow brands to promote and weave their custom content into the endemic experience of a website or app.” Great! Here is what the author of this Advertising Age article thinks about this prospect: “Existing media are challenging long-held, idealistic lines between editorial and advertising. Emerging media are inventing new forms of brand messaging.” Yes, that is what the separation of editorial content and advertising is today – “idealistic.” Quaint.
Yes, what a quaint idea – that you might be able to distinguish news from promotion. This is by no means fool-proof. And such separation doesn’t prevent readers from getting content from an author with an axe to grind or a viewpoint. But such a separation does reassurance the reader that they are not getting a promotional message for any product other than the article itself or the author.
Blending editorial content and advertising content means the advertisers may have even more sway over what news is “fit to print.” We know how well that works out. It is why mainstream media was so to carry articles about the dangers of smoking. Helen Gurley Brown was famous (or infamous if you prefer) for her response about why Cosmopolitan did not carry articles about the health risks of smoking many years after those risks were known. “Who needs somebody you’re paying millions of dollars a year to come back and bite you on the ankle?” (See Ken Warner, Selling Smoke, Washington, D.C. APHA, 1986, p. 74)
I won’t even go into the perhaps dubious use of the term “native” here and the potentially offensive associations with phrases like “going native.” However, blending also means that readers may have a harder time sorting pitches for products from pitches for ideas. Of course, that is the point.