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What’s Even Real Anymore?

April 27th, 2013

12 LizardFrom my days in publishing, I recall branded content with names like “advertorials” and “magalogs.’’ These products were essentially paid advertising sections or inserts, pages sold at a discounted rate, a deceptive blend between pure sponsorship and legitimate editorial.

Many companies affectionately termed such line extensions as “special projects.” There were elaborate sales strategies designed to bring these sponsors into the publication. Such units within media companies were often frowned on by traditional editors, even as those divisions leveraged the media brand, paired it with clients’ messaging, and earned a pretty penny for those companies.

Whole departments were formed to package such hybrid content, and it was constituted and reconstituted in a variety of ways, from custom-published corporate magazines to sections within existing magazine titles.

As for presentation, there were strict guidelines published by ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors), rules that were considered sacrosanct among top publishing companies. Hence, we see a small “Advertisement” blurb at the top of those sections. We were given stringent instructions. Fonts were monitored carefully and the design was intentionally distinct from the “run-of-book” editorial sections within any particular publication, to avoid confusion.

In a recent article, The New York Times cited instances on where paid sponsorships were published in such a way as to resemble editorial content. An article on Google glass technology was shared over 2,000 times on social media sites.

Sponsors Now Pay for Online Articles, Not Just Ads

According to David Hallerman, an analyst at eMarketer, “Brands are everywhere, and brands have now leaked into what has been traditionally the editorial space, not just the content but the look and feel of the content.”

In reality, this has been happening for a long time. The new name may be “native content,” but regardless of what it’s called, it’s still the same thing: An opportunity to extend the sales strategy of any media company into other revenue streams.

Without a doubt, it’s now a trickier proposition for those reading or those delivering. With the explosion of media channels in recent years, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between what’s real and what’s been paid for. It’s also becoming a complicated proposition to sell it convincingly.


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This entry was posted on Saturday, April 27th, 2013 at 5:10 pm and is filed under Advertising, Brand Image, Business, Customer Experience, Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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