The Editorial-Advertising Divide

I came across this story today.  As we all know, the magazine industry has been particularly hurt over the last few years.  Squeezed from all sides, one of the first things to go at some outlets was journalistic integrity. The magazine model perhaps was flawed from the beginning.  They create content for the readers.  However, the readers pay only a small price for it - the rest is subsidized by advertisers.  It has always been held as sacred that editorial content (content created by the magazine for the readers) be kept completely separately and easily distinguishable from advertising content (created by brands for the readers).

We all know how this story goes.  Not all magazines, but certainly some, have little to no separation.  Obviously this is a particularly short-sighted stance.  To give up your editorial control to advertisers means giving up the core competency of the business.  It is doomed to failure in the long run.  But, in the short run, everyone keeps their jobs and the magazine stays in print.

You would think that the American Society of Magazine Editors would realize this is damaging to the long-term interests of their constituency: MAGAZINE EDITORS, and would take a stance against this sort of behavior.  Shockingly, they have done the opposite: loosened their guidelines to shrink the wall between editorial and advertising.

Of course this is all particularly relevant in the watch industry.  Watch brands are HUGE advertisers in all sorts of magazines.  Watch content is also particularly easy to "advertorialize".  It only takes a few words to call a watch a brilliant piece of horology, and most readers do not have the knowledge to call BS.

So, the old adage has never been more pertinent: don't believe everything that you read.  It is more important ever to be educated consumers, not reliant on any single opinion.  Also, there are tons of fantastic writers, blogs and magazines.  Let's all support the good ones.  At the end of the day, the readers will get the final say on how much integrity we expect from our media.