Andrew Sullivan’s recent attacks on the innovative advertising techniques that The Atlantic and Buzzfeed have been experimenting with seem to me to be spot on. It is, after all, hard for anyone to look at this and not weep for the future of journalism:
That one little yellow box aside, this ‘story’ appears indistinguishable from any ordinary Atlantic post. The claim that there is no intent to possibly mislead readers here – and make more money from advertisers accordingly – is literally incredible.
I’ve little new to add, but I did want to flag a line Sullivan ends one post with that captures the problem philosophically:
[I]f advertorials become effectively indistinguishable from editorial, aren’t we in danger of destroying the village in order to save it?
Exactly. It is disingenuous to say you are saving journalism by offering it a financial future if, in the process of doing so, you in fact corrupt journalism’s very soul. It would be like trying to keep Christianity relevant by repealing the doctrine that Jesus was God. Seriously, if you’re going to leave us with a digital world in which we must be forever alert to the possibility that what we are reading is driven by a desire to sell products and ideas, rather than to tell the truth, then what is the point of preserving that?