An interesting dilemma revealed in a new Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) report underscores the continuing controversies that bedevil native advertising.
According to details gleaned from the report, The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) has embarked on a mighty task – to review and revise its guidelines on native advertising.
Specifically, the group looks to solidify where it stands and what it supports as the former chasm between editorial and advertising rapidly becomes a mere crack.
“ASME, which runs the National Magazine Awards, is faced with the dilemma of whether to look the other way, or create a new set of rules that reaffirm the long-held journalistic principle that editors should be prohibited from working on advertising content,” says WWD’s Alexandra Steigrad.
“According to insiders, in light of the fact that several publishers have already bent that rule, the organization is drafting what is being referred to as “prescriptive” guidelines for native advertising, which will be voted on next week by a board that includes publishing executives,” Steigrad explains.
It’s not a new issue, but it’s an unresolved one.
Every major publisher — from Hearst to Time, Inc. — has admitted that it has tapped editorial staffers to work cheek to jowl with advertising departments.
The heat was turned up when Condé Nast announced that its new content creation division (23 Stories) will employ editors to work on advertising copy.
That’s a violation of ASME’s current rule as seen on its website: “Editors are reminded that the participation of editorial staff in the creation of advertising is a conflict of interest and should be avoided. Editorial contributors should not participate in the creation of advertising if their work would appear to be an endorsement by the magazine of the advertised product.”
While Sid Holt, ASME’s CEO, noted that his organization is updating the group’s guidelines because after just two years they’re already “outdated,” he noted that “the new rules would “reaffirm Magazine Media’s commitment to transparency between edit and advertising while leaving execution to individual brands.”
In sum — does the editor serve the readers or the advertisers?
“Behind closed doors, sources told WWD that there is currently a struggle over how ASME should deal with journalists creating advertising, and the Condé Nast unit is at the center of that debate,” revealed WWD. “If it holds firm, then Condé pubs would not be eligible for National Magazine awards, a thought that seems implausible to many, which is why, one source said, the new principles will be “up for interpretation.”
Why all the fuss? Because native is growing — by leaps and bounds — and could blossom to a $21 billion marketplace by 2018 (a huge increase from 2013’s approximately $4.7 billion).