Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sponsored Editorial Part II

In the part I of my blog on sponsored editorial I looked at the history and negative aspects of it. Here I will examine the whys and hows of sponsored editorial.

The most obvious reason for doing it is to bring in additional revenue. This can be especially important to a small publication, radio station, t.v. station or Internet publication. However any size media will appreciate additional revenue.

The Guardian News & Media of Great Britain says, "These [sponsored] supplements are a valued source of revenue and allows us to explore in depth than editorial budgets would otherwise allow..."

So what are some general guidelines for dealing with sponsored editorial? Radio and t.v. stations should not do voice overs. Using sponsored content without attribution undermines the creditability of the station doing this. Opponents call this "fake news".

Related to this is what Australia's Nursing Review has this to say about the handling of sponsored editorial, "The layout, design and text of advertorials must be distinctly different from those of the publication." Some, like, say that no member of the editorial staff may be involved in putting together sponsored editorial.

Single or limited sponsorship can limit the media's ability to cover a story and can dictate directly or indirectly what stories may or may not be covered and how a story is covered. Probably the best way to handle this is to go for the clearly sponsored program or section. The airline industry has done this for years. Some companies also sponsor a magazine or t.v. show. Two examples of this are Westjet's Up Magazine and Costco's The Costco Connection, both of whom I've written for.

There's a lot more that could be said about the does and don'ts of sponsored journalism, but that will have to wait for another time.

On a sad note, I just learned that one of my favorite magazines, which I have occassionally written for, Harrowsmith, ceased publication July 25th after 35 years. The magazine treated writers reasonably well and provided a unique Canadian voice to country life. It will be solely missed and I wish the staff well in finding new jobs.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sponsored Editorial Part I

Is it possible to have sponsored editorial without selling your soul (i.e. compromising your integrity)? This question will be examined in a two part blog on this subject. In part one I'll examine the history and negative aspects of it. In part two, to be posted either around New Year's or around Christmas, I'll look at the positive aspects and how to do it.

Purists may argue that sponsored editorial undermines the integrity and credibility of that particular medium, be it a newspaper, a magazine, a t.v. news show, a radio news program or news online site, ezine or blog. However, sponsored editorial isn't new. In the 19th century in Canada and the United States, at least, you had newspapers sponsored by particular parties and religions. Today we have sponsored newspapers, magazines, radio, t.v. and Internet blogs and ezines. For example there's The Costco Connection and The Christian Science Monitor. Sponsored articles and video have been doene for years in the travel, health and food industries.

This still hasn't answered the question of whether or not sponsored editorial is generally good or generally bad. On the negative side it can blue the distinction between advertorial and journalism and undermine the credibility of a particular medium. It can leave readers or viewers wondering about the accuracy of a sponsored product, service or place. Sponsored editorial and segments have the potential of dictating what else can be published or shown.

Some travel magazines, travel sections of newspapers and travel programs on t.v. and radio won't allow a contributor to accept freebees on account of fearing that the contributor's opinion might be colored by this. Speaking as a writer who has taken the odd freebee, my seeking this out was colored by my positive opinion of, in this case, the attractions.

A major problem is not clearly identifying something as being sponsored. There has been a big uproar over fake (sponsored) t.v. news that is not clearly identified as such. The term "fake news" implies a lack of credibility and trust, which is reinforced by the sense of coverup when not identified as being sponsored.

Wraps are another potential problem. These are newspapers or magazines covered with a fake sponsored cover, which may often have some items taken from the real cover.

In my next post I will cover the positive aspects of sponsored editorial and provide some guidelines as to how to deal with it.

By the way, I missed my last post as my girlfriend, who lives out of town, was visiting me for a week and I simply forgot until it was too late.