Sunday, April 18, 2010

Is it an ad? Or a report? Or maybe a press release?

In the magazine business, we used to count pages of paid advertising vs pages of text to see if a publication was healthy.

Now, if we go to our favorite cycling web sites and count the news stories, they are mostly reports on some new item or service WE CAN BUY, or tests among multiple items WE CAN BUY.

All those reports and tests, 95% raves, are favors for manufacturers or marketers who advertise on the site. They repeat the claims the sellers make about their products.

In print media days, regurgitating press releases was lame and would be flagged by the editor so the reader was sure to know that he wasn't reading a staffer's opinion or conclusion, he was reading what the maker or marketer had to say about his own product.

Like kids in Lake Wobegon, if you ask the folks behind the scenes at the brand, all their products are above average....

Maybe readers are skeptical and cynical today. Maybe they expect this hype masquerading as legitimate journalism. Once a month publication dates are history, huh? Gotta find content somewhere....


Jim said...

This "paid reporting" has destroyed much of America's great journalism. Look at "Rider" motorcycle magazine. The articles are all been neutered. They went so far as to recommend a motorcycle (Enfield Bullet) that had shed it's primary chain drive during testing, destroying the crankcase.

The British Magazines, on the other hand, fear no-one and tell it like it is (or so it seems). If something is a piece of junk . . . they say so. Sometimes their use of words isn't quite as polite as the American idioms but they are intensely more accurate.

There is also the concept that American writers / publishers may get sued if they say anything unkind about a product, advertised or not. Scary? You bet'cha!

Khal said...

We need a bike mag along the lines of Consumer Reports: take no or little advertising, make sure what little corporate money comes in does so without too many strings attached, and actually pay people to write stuff rather than to sell crap.

Good to see Maynard ranting about this stuff too. He has some name recognition.

Larry and Heather said...

You've hit the nail on the head here Maynard. But of course when this is even hinted at to anyone involved in these things, they react with horror and denial that there's ANY connection between advertising and editorial!