Editorial vs. Advertising: Blurring the Lines

by Melissa Baratta on May 7, 2012

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Over the last 10 years, the line between journalists and readers has grown significantly shorter. From blogging to commenting to online sharing, the swift rise of the Internet and social media has allowed the consumer to be the producer in a way that was never before possible. The line between editorial and advertising has also always been a sticky area, and as a PR professional I’m trained to view pay-for-play media opportunities with a bit of a wary eye.

Social media enables the proliferation of news at the speed of light, which is a great thing. But now, media outlets are recognizing that readers often find their stories through a friend’s tweet or Facebook post, and they are looking for ways to capitalize on the trend.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times Co. announced it was closing the gap between editorial and advertising / journalist and consumer even further by launching Ricochet, a program that the WSJ says “lets marketers pick a select number of stories from Times Co. properties…that are relevant to their social media audiences and create special links for sharing those stories. Anyone clicking on the social media links will see the marketer’s ads next to the stories for a specified period of time.”

This new ad program has raised a few eyebrows, but NYT has assured everyone that they will keep the barrier between editorial and advertising strong by using a few stopgaps.

  1. Advertisers have to wait seven days before sharing any stories about themselves.
  2. Advertisers won’t be able to share negative stories about their competitors.

The program is aimed at enabling brands to connect better with their consumers, and truthfully users may not notice much of a difference at all.

The question now is, as the media world becomes ever more connected, will programs like Ricochet enhance the experience for everyone, or further blur the roles between reporters, consumers and advertisers? Only time will tell.

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B2B Marketing News » Weekly Reads for May 7, 2012
05.11.12 at 11:30 am

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Kathryn Runyan 05.16.12 at 2:46 pm

I really enjoyed this blog post and this is the first I have heard of Riochet. I think that programs like Riochet will only enhance the media experience for the end user. If you accept the agenda setting theory, then you believe that the media doesn’t tell us what to think but rather, what to think about. Programs like Riochet just enhance the role and responsibility of media practitioners.

McCombs, M., & Shaw, D.L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of the mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-185.

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