Online Journalism–Where Advertisers Make Content Too!

A long New York Times Magazine piece (5/16/10) aboutstart-up online journalismoutlets brings us some troubling news about the wall between editorial content and advertising:

One thing many of these new strategies have in common is a willingness to transgress time-honored barriers–for instance, by blurring the division between reporting and advertising. True/Slant offers to let advertisers use the same blogging tools that contributors do, to produce content that, while labeled, is blended into the rest of the site. Such marketing deals are central to the companyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s plans for future revenue growth. “Everywhere I go, the whole notion of enabling marketers to create content on a news platform is well received,” Lewis Dvorkin says. “It’s the way the world is moving.”

Not long ago, such an idea would have been considered heretical, and in many newsrooms, it still is. But clearly, attitudes are shifting. “Hopefully we’re breaking down the silliness of how church and state was historically implemented,” says Merrill Brown, a veteran media executive and investor who is currently building a network of local news sites. Once, most journalists took a posture of willful ignorance when it came to the economics of the industry: They never wanted to sully themselves by knowing the business. The recession has, through fear and necessity, made capitalists out of everyone.

For proof that catering to advertisers is not “heretical” in the rest of the media, and that journalism is the worse for these “shifting” attitudes, read FAIR’s new Fear & Favor report in the May issue of Extra!

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.