Famous Last Words: Forcing Journalists to Be Flacks
Condé Nast is America's premier upmarket magazine publisher. Included in its distinguished stable are many legendary publications.
Condé journalists are among the most skilled in the world.
Always on the hunt for advertising dollars, CEO Chuck Townsend has put his imprimatur on a new scheme—"23 Stories by Condé Nast."
From the Condé press release:
The name 23 Stories by Condé Nast was inspired by the company's new headquarters in 1 World Trade Center, where the lauded editorial and creative teams occupy 23 stories of the iconic tower.
Condé will have editors from its fleet of magazines work directly with marketers to produce branded content.
In other words, world-class editors, reporters and designers will be turned into part-time flacks.
This Scheme Should Not Fly
"News organizations generally believe in a wall between editorial operations and the business side of a publication," wrote Steven Perlberg in The Wall Street Journal. Perlberg continues: "The inclusion of Condé Nast's editorial staff is 'the thing that really sets their branded-content offering apart,' said Amy Stettler, general manager of global media and agency management at Microsoft Corp., a Condé Nast advertiser that is still weighing whether to sign on to '23 Stories.'"
In my opinion, Stettler hasn't a clue what she's talking about. Serious journalists forced into the dirty business of creating content for advertisers will be made to feel like whores.
Confessions of an Old Flack
Back when I was editor of Target Marketing—a trade magazine—my entire goal was to help my readers make money. Back then "native advertising" was called an "advertorial." It allows advertisers the opportunity to tell their stories quietly—in a news format—without the hype of a copywriter.
Native advertising is a form of public relations—letting people in on what you are doing.