How do you get information about manufacturing/production and technology? Are you concerned with the influence of advertisers over editorial? Are you aware if the article you’re reading is from a supplier or “objective” reporter?
I have a friend who left traditional Business-To-Business (B2B) media to go out on his own (no, this isn’t about me in third person!). His mantra is “I don’t take advertising, so I can tell the truth.”
I have another friend in the business (as well as me) who says, “What? You think I don’t tell the ‘truth’ even though there is advertising on my site!?”
I say, “If you want to advertise, call me” 😉 But I’ll say what I want.
Oh, there’s a surprise at the bottom of the post.
Mixing Advertising and Reporting
The New Republic is a magazine with a 100-year heritage. It’s opinionated, but respected. It’s now disintegrating. Maybe.
The problem seems to be the new owner who suddenly wants to see a profit. When the sales department runs a magazine, a continuous tension between editors (who like to think they are independent observers and reporters of events) and sales (who think all articles should promote their clients) is inevitable.
The other issue is writing articles to generate online traffic. Utilize search engine optimization (SEO), the bosses say. Editors traditionally say, who cares. I’m writing the truth.
The New York Times has reported on the New Republic fiasco.
The quintessential social media mogul — Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard roommate — buys the ultimate symbol of the old media, a progressive opinion journal that dates back to the Woodrow Wilson administration. What could possibly go wrong?
And so what started out as a fairy tale turned into a cautionary one about this fraught moment in the history of the media, when news meetings at even the most respected publications are increasingly taken up with conversations about audience development and search engine optimization.
[One contributor] said that though the values of the magazine, and its focus on long, thoughtful stories, were paramount, “the media environment in which The New Republic operates has changed.”
I don’t believe SEO is necessarily all that bad. My Website designer (Jon DiPietro now of Authentia] and I looked at the keywords that would relate to what I write about, studied their Google strength, and then built in an SEO component in the Website.
The problem occurs especially for The New Republic when sales begins ordering a change in the entire format of the magazine from longer, more thoughtful articles to short snippets designed solely for maximizing page views therefore maximizing ad impressions therefore maximizing the dollar value of the banner ads.
This, by the way, is a short-term strategy. It’s the last gasp of a dying model. But change will require a total restructuring of the model, the role of sales, the role of writers, the problems of suppliers promoting their products and services.
Actually, still another issue is that marketers increasingly want to write articles that look just like editorial but are actually advertising. The idea is to trick readers into reading the article as if it were written by an “objective” reporter. Perhaps then, people will read and believe.
I guess that marketers believe that readers will not read articles written by marketing managers—especially engineers—because they are expecting nothing more than a sales pitch. And, we’re all tired of constant sales pitches.
But marketing communications people exist to get their message out in whatever way they can. And why do they think that their message is so lacking in substance that they must resort to trickery?
In our industry, technology comes from suppliers. We live on technology among other things. We need to know about the new technologies—what they are and how they are used. This comes from suppliers and early adopters.
I tell marketing professionals when I consult with them (either for free or for a fee) to start a blog. They can get their message out in their own way. But, I always say, ensure that the information is clear, relevant, devoid of “marketing speak”—superlatives and other overboard bragging, and above all technical.
I will read supplier information if it meets those criteria. To be honest, I don’t read supplier articles in trade magazines—haven’t for 30 years. I have higher expectations for the level of content in a magazine. But that’s just me—and old, former editor.
There are a few supplier blogs that I know (if there are others, let me know) and follow for useful information:
- Emerson Process Experts
- ABB Conversations
- Schneider Operations Management (was Invensys)
- Manufacturing Geek (Camstar)
- Siemens PLM
Advice for a reader
- In all your reading and television/movie watching, be alert for subtle messages designed to sway you
- Don’t fall for link bait
- Take care passing along information as fact when it hasn’t been verified
- Find your trusted sources and support them
And finally, if you don’t like click bait, don’t click
Hi Gary – I’m going to take slight exception to your use of the word “trickery” to describe advertorials. It’s true that some marketers are trying to trick readers. But in all walks of life, there people at both ends of the ethical scales. Done correctly, advertorials should offer truly valuable content to the reader. I’ve read many advertorials that delivered excellent content and (in one case) was quite happy to buy a product that the company offered. As long as 1) it’s being disclosed that the content is a paid advertisement and 2) the article provides high quality information, I don’t see the problem.
But I do understand the consternation and potential for abuse of this particular advertising medium.
Gosh, Jon, you’re fast. I thought quite a while about that word. In fact, this post took the longest amount of time to write of just about any. But it’s been laying on my mind for a long time.
As I understand it, the new technique is not advertorial labeled as advertorial. It is something designed to look just like an article or column in the magazine–only it is written by the advertiser and paid for by the advertiser.
When I was at Automation World, we had one of those. An advertiser designed an ad that looked just exactly like our columns. They had lifted all the art and duplicated the style. It was not supplied to us as an advertorial. It was supplied to us as an ad. They wanted it placed in the section where the columns were located. I was not happy. I don’t remember what happened, but I remember discussions with sales people about it.
So far as I know, this “new practice” is found more often in consumer magazines. But watch for it in B2B.
Oh, and I read with a critical (not negative, but needing to be persuaded) mind anything–even from editors who often don’t have deep knowledge of their subject and sometimes just provide unfiltered information disguised as fact. Happens often in political coverage, but can happen in B2B, also.
Thanks for the clarification.
Gary, Jon, I agree that the further you stay away from marketing-speak and ask the question if the content will be valuable for the reader, than you can be very straight forward without trying to trick anyone.
I think we have a lot of new engineers entering the process manufacturing & production profession who are looking for basic educational stuff–even if it involves references to suppliers’ products and services.
Thanks for the blog shout out too!
Hi Jim, This is a discussion I felt should be brought to light. I don’t know how it will play out in our space. I do think the future is digital. Print will be around for several years, though.
We are going to have to educate a lot of new engineers (I hope). We all learned from the technology suppliers or high-end magazines that wound up fading away. Byte magazine was my electronics bible for years. (sigh)
Oh, and your blog is still the gold standard. Glad it’s still going.