I did not think I would see the day. Bloomberg Businessweek informs us that the “New York Times Grudgingly Embraces Branded Content.” Though other news outfits have adopted the controversial money-making trend, it somehow seemed like the Times would prefer to shutter its doors before blurring the line between articles and ads. I guess not.
Reporter Felix Gillette describes the sneaky marketing trend:
“Branded content is a newish form of digital advertising in which marketers create story-like units that live among a publisher’s editorial products and share the same underlying aesthetic, tone, and technology. In recent years a growing number of online publishers and advertisers have embraced the change, in part because it allows brands to create ideas and messages specifically tailored for an audience, the sort of content that can live at the heart—rather than the periphery—of the publication. Brands are willing to pay higher rates for the opportunity to do just that. The downside of the format is that it comes with some risk of blurring the line between a publisher’s editorial voice and a brand’s—and, on occasion, has become the source of hand-wringing among journalistic watchdogs and ethicists who worry it can undermine integrity.”
Well, yes, those are the concerns. In an unenthusiastic memo to employees, the paper’s publisher insists it will be clear which content is advertising and which is real reporting. The branded-content pages will, after all, be surrounded by a blue border. See, it’s the essence of clarity. What could possibly go wrong?
Cynthia Murrell, January 13, 2014