Boundaries Between Editorial and Advertorial Online Content Continue to Blur

According to an article written by William Lauder, and published on the online Wall Street Journal website on Sunday, August 25, 2013, Marketers Seek Extra Edge to Go Viral, “More marketers are starting to buy space on websites for their so-called “sponsored content” – brand ads disguised as stories and blogs – using the same kind of automated trading platforms and other ad technology typically used for display ads.” (quoted from Mr. Lauder’s article). The information Mr. Lauder presents makes sense to us. Although the examples he cites are all about tangible products, we’ve noted quite a bit of content clearly assembled to promote intangible products and services, as well.

The concern, of course, is the extent to which this type of editorial content is accepted by readers as legitimate expository prose, rather than what it actually is — meaning skillfully assembled, high powered advertising copy. We think this concern is actually a big deal. If the public is fed this type of content, in other words duped, can we be confident correct decisions will be made about all sorts of topics, from the mundane activities depicted in Mr. Lauder’s article, all the way up to some very big decisions (for example, whether or not it makes sense to vote for a particular candidate, or spend a considerable amount of money on a primary residence).

Any/all examples of this kind of promotional content need to be clearly labeled as such, or else we will cross the line into a dangerous territory where, ultimately, editorial content, itself, will eventually lose any credibility whatsoever when the public, inevitably, wakes up to the ruse.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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