When it comes to advertising content (aka sponsored content), publishers are still feeling out how to properly disclose what exactly it is that readers are seeing. This has fueled debate that advertising content is not clear to users.
Digiday looked at several publishers that generate revenue through creating content for advertisers. Each has a devoted link somewhere on its site with its content guidelines. And while all have some kind of pithy language on the piece of content saying that it’s sponsored (like “brought to you by,” “presented by,” “partner content”), only one, NBC News, uses the word “advertiser” in its description. Sure, potato/potahto, you may say. But readers coming across a piece of advertising content may not know it’s a piece of advertising if all they see is “partner content.” Here are four publications that have guidelines for advertising content and descriptions of how each discloses on a particular piece of content.
MIT Technology Review
Technology Review has a devoted URL to its sponsored content guidelines and in clear language explains that “material from advertisers is always unambiguously labeled, and the sponsor is always clearly identified.” For example, this piece of sponsored content that’s a downloadable collection of new energy breakthroughs reads “brought to you by National Instruments.” The guidelines say that advertisers “have no influence on editorial decisions.” To further drive home the point that there’s a clear separation of advertising and editorial, the guidelines explicitly say that the advertising content is created either by the brand or Technology Review’s advertising team. Interestingly, Technology Review’s publisher, who also happens to be its editor-in-chief approves subject matter and relevance of the advertising content.
Not too long after the 156-year-old publisher angered the media world by running a piece of sponsored content from the Church of Scientology, senior executives from different parts of the business — advertising, marketing, sales and edit — sat down to create sponsored content guidelines. When looking at a piece of advertising content, like this piece by IBM about cognitive computing, there is a yellow “Sponsored Content” tag (as well as different colored font on its leaderboard) with a “What’s This?” rollover that says, “This Content is made possible by our Sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Atlantic’s editorial staff.” The guidelines say that content “created or commissioned by advertisers” goes through The Atlantic’s marketing team, not editorial.
Sitting on its sponsored content page, in the right hand rail, are the HuffPo’s advertising content guidelines. Well, not really guidelines, but more of a throwaway explanation of what its sponsored content is. It reads, in part, “The Huffington Post’s Sponsored Content is in the business of connecting advertisers to our audience and beyond.” There’s nothing that explains who creates the content. This Cisco-sponsored slideshow about women in science, technology, engineering and math is labeled with “sponsored feature” and “in partner with.” That’s it. There’s no scroll-over, no understanding of what this advertising content is.
NBC News has recently gotten into the “native” game. Advertising content on Today.com, like this Estee Lauder piece about tips for making your skin look young, is labeled as “advertiser content” and includes a “what’s this?” scroll-over. It reads: “This is a paid advertisement. The content is created by the advertiser and the NBC News sales department, not the NBC News editorial team. Learn more here.” NBC also has a PDF of its advertising content guidelines, which repeats the “what’s this” statement and adds a section explaining that should comments be turned on, “advertisers do not moderate any comments on NBC News websites and NBC News reserves the right to reject or remove any advertisement at any time.”
How agencies adapt as bots evolve
Social media bots may represent just a sliver of an app's total users, but it turns out they may be generating more content than we were previously aware. The challenge is separating the good ones from the bad.
Publishers feel the crunch of cookieless browsers like Apple’s Safari
Bid enrichment provides publishers the means of sprucing up their cookieless impressions to improve their value in advertisers’ eyes.
Why Hearst is building a commerce marketplace
Publisher commerce marketplaces aren't always successful, but Hearst's Sheel Shah hopes his company's new marketplace will capitalize on the natural evolution of its readers' online shopping habits.
Sponsored<strong>How marketers are responding to shoppers’ wants this holiday season</strong>
‘Death by a thousand paper cuts’: Publishers fret over alternative ID overload hurting site performance
Publishers lack the data to know which IDs they can afford not to support and are worried a surplus of IDs can slow page-load speeds and lower sites' search rankings.
Member ExclusiveMedia Buying Briefing: Separating agency progress from posturing around carbon reduction and sustainability
Could it be that the media world is finally taking concrete steps toward decarbonization — or will many of the efforts underway become the butt of a joke (or worse, the focus of an upcoming John Oliver segment)?