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.

Marketers’ dilemma

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?

Solution?

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:

 

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

 

Share This