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The Problem with Sponsored Content

Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 10:59 PM

In the news: The Atlantic comes under fire for a recent sponsored content item.

Earlier this month, The Atlantic ran a piece sponsored by the Church of Scientology. The ensuing controversy has raised an important question for editors: Where should magazines and websites draw the line when it comes to advertorials?

Some magazine professionals are questioning the ethics of advertising content designed to resemble editorial content. Perhaps most concerning about the Atlantic piece isn't the sponsor itself, but the widespread complaint that the publication didn't make it clear enough to readers that this article was a sponsored item. Adding fuel to the fire was Atlantic's heavier-than-usual moderation of reader comments.

Does advertorial content have a place in today's publications? If so, should magazine editors and salespeople collaborate to ensure that sponsored content fits with the brand's identity? Read more about sponsored content and the Atlantic incident here and here.

Also Notable

Learning from E-books

It's hard to dispute that books have made the most successful jump to digital. Some publishers are now getting up to 20 percent of their revenue from e-books. So what can magazine editors learn from their book editing counterparts? For starters, the e-book experience has taught us that reader's aren't necessarily willing to pay for digital bonuses (e.g., video). This has led book publishers away from previous "enhanced e-book" endeavors. Read more here.

Apps and Spin-off Content

The mounting popularity of apps has led magazine editors to divide and repurpose content in new ways. App technology presents editors with a golden opportunity to repurpose content from back issues in a way that makes the information relevant and exciting again. Read more here.

Time Inc. Layoffs

This week, magazine giant Time Inc. announced that it would be eliminating 500 positions worldwide. This amounts to a 6 percent staff cut. In a memo to employees, CEO Laura Lang stated that Time Inc. "must continue to transform our company into one that is leaner, more nimble and more innately multi-platform." Read more about the impending layoffs here and here.

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