Advertorial: Poisonous and Destructive

Commenter Devonian wraps things up in the ScienceBlogs/Pepsi thread on Metafilter:

One of the most poisonous and destructive forms of paid-for content is advertorial: adverts disguised as editorial. It is something that is constantly -and I mean constantly -pushed at publications, even those who resolutely refuse to take it. Ad sales people are constantly offered large deals to get the stuff in, PRs try every trick in the book, and the smarter advertisers are adept at trying to slip it in by the way they design their collateral or asking for this or that ambiguous aspect to a deal.

Advertorial destroys trust. It is deceiving the readership. It taints the entire publication. It is, in my view, one of the worst things a publication with any pretence to objectivity can do.

You wouldn’t believe how much time and effort goes into stopping it, and how many shades of grey there are, and how differently those shades look from different parts of a publisher. I’m lucky in that I work for one that has support for editorial from the top down, and backs up editors that say no. But there is always, always pressure to give advertisers stuff. These are hard times, and it is hard to say no, we won’t do that, it deceives the readers.

Yet there are ways to take the advertisers money, be faithful to the readership, and be transparent about what’s going on, and SB didn’t get that bit right.

5 thoughts on “Advertorial: Poisonous and Destructive

  1. omegapet

    Today, July 8, it seems that ScienceBlogs has taken official notice of the, ahem, spit-storm and has dis-invited PepsiCo.

    Amazing that anyone believed a scientific community readership wouldn’t be sensitive to seeing marketing being packaged up in a white lab coat.

  2. Thomas Joseph

    omegapet, you just don’t get it. The fact is that all of SB is ported over to Google News. That means more than just the scientific community readership would have been exposed to the PepsiCo swill. Since they would not have known the history or context behind it, PepsiCo would have been given a huge amount of exposure and then advertorial would have been seen as editorial.

    Does that make any more sense for you now?

  3. Thomas Joseph


    Perhaps. At any rate, I don’t think the uproar at SB was solely for the benefit of the SB readership. Though, to be honest, for me it’s mostly a moot point. I go back sporadically at this point because save one or two blogs, most of SB is not about the S. Meh. I do love the occasional tempest in a teapot though. ;)

  4. omegapet

    I could have been more clear.  What I meant was:

    “Amazing that anyone [among the SBlogs administration/leadership, presumably with
    some kind of advanced education themselves] believed that a
    scientific community [made up of SBlogs contributors and participants and their valued]
    readership[s] wouldn’t be sensitive [i.e., outraged to the point of departing and taking their blogging and their readers away in an angry protest] to seeing marketing . . . “

    Since the elapsed time between the announcement and the withdrawal of the “Pepsi Experiment” was just a couple of days, and since the explosion of outrage generated 10x the notice (and googled results) as Pepsi’s one original posting; I think the non-scientific internet readership are now adequately informed about the tempest, the teapot, the tea set, and even the Mad Hatter who set the whole stupid thing in motion.