Going back a few years, the Internet was not considered a credible media source. That changed, but it's changing again.
In the early days of online publishing (even pre-Blogging) the simple fact that any one individual could publish their text, images, audio and video online created a major stir within the major mass media outlets. In fact, their only defense in trying to maintain control over what the public consumed was to scare the world with stories of online publishers not living up to the journalistic integrity that we have come to expect from our news and media outlets. To this day, there are still traces of this (look no further than the articles covering the accuracy of Wikipedia entries).
Can the Bloggers be trusted?
It's a powerful thing to say, but we've come to learn that the vast majority of Blogs (and the Bloggers who publish them) are overly transparent about who they are, what they're Blogging about and where their intention is (those who are transparent gain credibility, conversation and audience). On top of that, the Bloggers that do not disclose things like conflicts or when they are being compensated are becoming easier and easier to spot.
...But things are starting to get ugly again.
Yesterday, Paid Content, ran a news item titled, Condé Nast Enlists Web Edit Staff For Samsung Advertorial. Here's the gist of it: "Condé Nast is attempting to protect the traditional wall separating advertising from print editorial by having online-only staffers create an ad insert for Samsung... the use of web staffers was seen as a compromise and a way to avoid clashing with print editors who were considered averse to allowing their own staff work on an ad product."
Either you're believing in this digital content stuff or you're not. You can't be half-pregnant.
There are a couple of factors at play here:
- Making a differentiation between print and online journalism (in terms of quality and value) is downright silly.
- By allowing the online-only staff to do the advertorial content, this activity diminishes their ability to be considered credible (today and tomorrow).
- The overall action creates a bad moral compass for the company's ethics of journalism at a macro level (it's sounds like they're looking for some kind of ethical loophole).
The Web is not an inferior media.
The sooner that brands, advertisers and publishers stop treating the Internet like the red-headed step child of the media and marketing mix, the sooner they're going to be able to better understand how they can connect and build their brand in this new world where consumers are connected, looking for real interactions between real human beings and are, ultimately, not just a passive audience, but active participants, voices and community members. Publishers aren't the only publishers anymore. People are now also publishers and brands (and Marketers) are publishers too. So, we need to change our code of ethics around editorial content and advertising, and not just look for loopholes and ways to capitulate.
What do you think?(hat-tip: Hugh McGuire)