It is important to distinguish the difference and variance between editorial content and advertising content.

Editorial content and news content is actual content developed and created to inform, inspire or entertain the reader. Advertising content is content that is paid to produce and feature/run. Essentially it is a message paid for by a third party company.

Last week I picked up a magazine and shifted through the first 102 pages, which included the cover and inside cover. In that review, 40% of the content was news/editorial, 60% was advertising. 5 of the pages were advertorials.

An advertorial is an advertisement designed to look like it is editorial content. The FTC, which protects consumers against misleading information, states that advertorials are permissible provided there is a “disclosure made in simple, unequivocal language” where it says “Advertisement.” You’ve probably seen this in magazine where a page looks like an article, but above it says Advertisement to indicate that this feature was paid for.

In fact, many magazines and now created branded content called “native advertising” which are ad campaigns designed and geared to look like original editorial content that is part of the magazine.

It is simple enough to understand why. Most people are have become really good at ignoring advertisements so native advertising is a way to appear to readers that might not be ignored at first. The goal is to keep readers engaged with the advertisements as it is stylistically matching the rest of the magazine.

There are publications that are actually setting up branded content teams that are still separate from the editorial teams to preserve editorial integrity and ethics.

The balance is a very precarious one, as publishers know full well that readers do not want too much advertising in a magazine, however the magazine is primarily paid for from advertisers. Yet without subscriptions, there won’t be advertisers to support the magazine. Thus the three parties constantly try to find a working balance where the readers get what they want, advertisers get a return on their investment and publishers are able to profit with the magazine.

Overall, most parties can agree that there needs to be transparency. Readers should know what content is paid for and what content is genuine editorial/news content. The reality is that if people feel fooled, they will not give their attention again.

“The more advertising is in a given medium, the less effective each individual advertisement is,” – Al Ries & Laura Ries, The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR

Consider for a moment how many advertisements you see in a given day. There are ad banners or pop ups in our e-mails, there are newsletters and spam we receive in our inbox, there are the ads running alongside and in the middle of articles we read online, there are ads in our morning paper, as soon as we turn on the TV, on Pandora as we drive to work, on bumper stickers, on the sides of buildings, on billboards, in magazines in SMS texts, the list goes on.

The overabundance of advertising has left a negative perception on ads and the result, as stated above, is we often end up ignoring most messages we come across. The response is that advertising messages have had to get more creative and original to try to capture our attending. Advertising has become an art form.

We see product placements in TV and in movies, celebrity casual endorsements of products anything that we were not expecting to catch our attention and pause, if only for a moment.

Granted, we are warned not to believe everything you read – but can you deny that people are influenced by the news they watch or the publications they read?

So consider which then has more weight in your mind as it relates to credibility. Or, better stated, which would you believe more – a news/editorial story or an advertisement?

Hardly anyone would pick the advertisement.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto