In an email today I was asked by a PR person if I wanted to talk with somebody at a major newspaper about its foray into “native” advertising — a euphemism for ads made to look like editorial matter. Among other things they asked if native advertising would “signify the death of credible journalism.” Here was my response:
I think tricking up advertising to look like journalism crosses a line I wish (name of paper) would keep up as a thick wall.
In publishing, editorial is church and advertising is state. The difference should be clear, and the latter should not be confused with the former. For nearly all its history, this was the case with (name of paper), and all serious publications.
While native ads don’t signify the death of credible journalism, they do signify a sell-out by publishers using them.
If (person at the paper) wants to try convincing me otherwise, I’m game. But be warned that the likelihood that I’ll give native ads a positive spin — for any pub — is close to nil.
Bonus link — Andrew Sullivan on Native Ads: Journalism has surrendered. Great interview.
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