Separation of News and Advertising is Over

Journalists claim there is a wall between news and advertising.  

Somebody in the newsroom better inform the publisher and executive producer because that wall hasn’t been there for a long time.

With NBC Nightly News actively doing “news” segments on their own programming, NBC with their “Artist in Residence” program and promoting it on the Today Show and evening news, major market newspapers covering their own events and activities, etc., advertising and news have not been separate for a while, no matter what the editors and beat journalists say.

Sure, some organizations have a stronger line than others, but let’s face it, with traditional publishers dying faster than dinosaurs, that line is getting fuzzier all the time, and in many cases, it’s gone.

A local affiliate in the West Palm Market is selling “news packages,” produced by their news production crews, on products and services and showing it on their air as news during news programs.  They’re infomercials!  Guess they’re running out of car crashes to cover.

Boca Raton production companies, home to the infomercial industry, have been selling “news packages” to companies and claim that they air on PBS, Discovery, Lifetime, and other cable channels for over a decade.  They even have marquee named news hosts like Hugh Downs and others.

Think about the newspaper real estate section (when there was one). The “advertorial” that looks like news is written by the advertisers. Magazines sell display space and “content space” all the time – including Newsweek.  As a marketer, you can negotiate a cover for many magazines – all it takes is cash.  The line isn’t there let alone a wall.  And most in the public don’t know it.

They can have “Contents produced by the advertising department” on the page or website all they want, but very few read the fine print.  And that’s OK with both the publisher and advertiser.

I had to laugh when my 11 year-old daughter read a weekly column by a real estate editor 5 years ago and she looked at me in shock when she said, “Dad, this guy plagiarized your article!”  She had read the article on my laptop at home while I was working on it the week before.  The editor used it word-for-word.

I explained how that section of the paper worked.  As the director of marketing and public relations I spent a $ million a year advertising in that paper so they gave us columns with the editor’s byline, cover stories, and inside advertorials.  Then she said, “His picture shouldn’t be at the top of the article, yours should be.”

My daughter’s right.  Maybe we ought to stop faking it.   Honesty in the media?  That’s a novel idea.

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