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Editorial and advertising blur more lines at Time Inc.

4e70b7ef-1c1f-406d-b233-5e0344c24426Advertising and editorial have gotten increasingly chummy over the last several years as the news industry struggles to find alternative, and lucrative, sources of revenue. Advertising has become such a focus that several media organizations reported that Time Inc. was taking into account how well a reporter’s content appealed to advertisers as a basis for layoffs.

Gawker published a spreadsheet yesterday, reportedly provided by the Newspaper Guild, ranking editors and writers from Sports Illustrated in an editorial performance chart. Journalists were rated on Quality of Writing, Impact of Stories/Newsworthiness, Productivity/Tenacity, Audience/Traffic, Video, Social and Enthusiasm/Approach to Work. But the one that caused a ripple of unease through the media industry was the one that rated journalists on how, “Beneficial to Advertiser Relationship” they were.

“They should not be judging our people on criteria such as whether their reporting is friendly to advertisers or things of that nature,” Anthony Napoli, a union representative, told the New York Times, “or whether they are doing other things that aren’t part of their job.” noted that Time Inc. has disputed that the advertising relationship had a heavy impact on selecting who to eliminate. In a statement, Time spokesman Scott Novak said, “The Guild’s representation is misleading and takes one category out of context.”

Lines between editorial and advertising blur on a regular basis with most news orgs in the country adopting the practice of native advertising. This kind of advertising is often story-like in nature and frequently posted along with editorial content, although usually set apart by a stamp letting readers know it’s sponsored.

This trend can be seen recently with Thrillist, a lifestyle site for young urban men. The site launched an ad program for General Electric, focusing around the 45th anniversary of the moon landing last month, reported  A series of articles detailed GE’s involvement in the moon landing. Along with the articles, GE produced and promoted a limited edition of moon sneakers which Thrillist posted to its e-commerce site, According to WSJ, the sneakers sold out in seven minutes, detailing the power of native advertising.

While native advertising seems to be the wave of the future for the industry, Chicago Tonight reported that a study conducted by the agency Contenty, found that two-third of people surveyed felt deceived when finding out an article or video was paid content.

Native advertising is a sign of the changing times, and it’s also a sign that evolution is happening, regardless of the controversy that often surrounds the practice. There’s also no sign that the trend will fade into the background. In an interview with Chicago Tonight, Ad Age reporter Michael Sebastian said: “There’s literally billions flowing into native advertising markets. That number is expected to increase for the next five years at least.”



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