“Sponsored content”: Blurring news with ads?

In a year that began with The Union outsourcing its printing to Sacramento, and cutting jobs, our local newspaper is now ending the year by quietly launching what it calls “sponsored content.”

Newspapers are turning to the sponsored content “in the face of continued contraction of print revenue,” as the media “think tank” Poynter Institute observes.

Most publications clearly identify that the “sponsored content” is a paid ad, as distinguished from a news article.

When The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications publish sponsored content, they make it clear to the reader. An example is here. It clearly states that the content was paid for by Dell.

The Union is merely labeling the article “sponsored content” once you click on the headline but without further explanation. It is less transparent than the Times or Chronicle.

Though newspapers are buzzing about “sponsored content,” or what they call “native advertising,” advertorials are nothing new for newspapers.

They never have been too successful, however, largely because of lackluster execution. The articles are giddy, lack institutional knowledge and lack context. They also can create dissension in the workplace — between the journalists and the marketers.

The “sponsored content” also can backfire — for publishers and advertisers.

Google, for example, has said it may penalize sponsored content in its search rankings. The details are here. You can view the entire advertorial video here:

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

One thought on ““Sponsored content”: Blurring news with ads?”

  1. It took Union publisher/GV Chamber board member Jim Hemig’s rather aggrandizing “yearend letter” to give our community the scoop on the local “who’s who” that are backing the Dorsey Marketplace:
    “Most recently, I tramped around in the mud at the old Spring Hill mine site and proposed location for Grass Valley’s latest shopping center with local resident Steve Enos.”

    Small towns are a hoot! I have a hard time keeping track of the characters.


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