Media panelists debate blurring of ad/edit lines

Author:
Updated:
Original:

MIAMI — Sponsored content. Advertorial. Special section. Native advertising. Whatever you want to label it, it’s not a new concept.

Members of the Marine Marketers of America were joined by boating industry representatives, publishers, editors and reporters for a Miami International Boat Show discussion about the future of marine publishing and the increasingly blurry lines between editorial content and advertising.

“As a publisher, I have nothing if I don’t have integrity,” Sally Helme, group publisher of Cruising World and Sailing World, says of the need to clearly identify advertorials as advertising content. “There is no point in trying to fool your readers. Don’t insult your readers by putting something out there that’s not authentic.”

The discussion, titled, “Marine Publishing: New Methods to Market Your Message,” was moderated by MMA vice president Michael Sciulla, and it included a panel of five marine publishing experts. Sciulla opened the forum by asking whether editorial content is still clearly separated from advertising, and in the case of editorial content written by or for advertisers, whether the system works for readers, sponsors and publications.

Panelist David Pilvelait, of Home Port Marine, expressed concern as a public relations representative that there is limited editorial space for new products developed by smaller companies without big marketing budgets. He says those companies have difficulty getting new products reviewed in editorial pages without buying ads.

“This is an evolving marketplace,” says Duncan McIntosh, publisher of Sea magazine, Editor & Publisher, The Log and Boating World. The names and labels change, and the way editorial is distinguished from ads continues to change, he says.

Much of the medium is now digital, McIntosh says, and although publishers scale content, or mark the content, in a range of different ways, he believes editorial and advertising are compatible platforms. “It comes down to quality. If content [editorial or advertising] is relevant, entertaining and humorous, it will work,” he says.

Jim Rhodes, of Rhodes Communications, says the mixing of editorial and advertising content has been around for a long time and that there is an obligation on both sides to be authentic. The publisher’s biggest asset is reader loyalty, he says. “If you have the loyalty of the reader, the advertising will follow,” Rhodes says. “A publisher cheapens content and risks losing readers by printing unlabeled advertorial content. But if it’s clearly labeled, I think it’s fine.”

Shawn Bean, editorial director of Bonnier Corp.’s Active Interest Network, says the lines are even murkier in social media. Content posted on Facebook or Twitter can’t be marked, he points out. “We can’t put a name on a YouTube video. We can’t mark it as edit or ad. This continues to evolve right in front of our eyes,” Bean says. “Trust is the epicenter. I’m not exactly sure where we’re headed, but we have to figure it out.”

Audience members argued that editors, writers and publishers have an obligation to fact-check the content of native advertising, but Helme disagrees, saying it behooves advertisers to tell the truth. “We need to be honest, and we need to be transparent,” she says.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue.

Related

ABYC Foundation Seeks Nominations for Educator Award

The award recognizes “an outstanding instructor who is shaping future marine service technicians.”

P.R. Firm Rushton Gregory Signs ePropulsion

The Chinese manufacturer of electric propulsion products introduced a standardized lineup earlier this year.

Dometic Updates Pro-Trim System

The new design allows boaters to trim the outboard and adjust the jack plate without removing their hands from the wheel.

Brunswick Partners with Carnegie Robotics

Through the alliance, Brunswick aims to enhance its autonomous technology offerings.

Nicole Vasilaros to Depart NMMA

The group credits the senior vice president of government and legal affairs for “countless contributions to the protection and expansion of the recreational boating industry.”

Site Unseen

A website is often the first interaction a customer will have with a dealership, but it must provide more than an online brochure or they will click elsewhere.

C.G. Amends Documentation Rules

Federally documenting a boat now must be done every five years, rather than annually.

The 2021 Top 10 Most Innovative Marine Companies Awards

The marine industry consistently honors products and people. The industry, however, has not recognized forward-thinking companies that are moving the industry in new directions. Soundings Trade Only’s mission is to reflect, inform and inspire.