From our Over to the Dark Side desk

New York Observer reporter Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke chronicles the increasing migration of journalists to the stealth marketing industry:


Journalists Take Refuge in the World of Branded Content

Until December, Melissa Lafsky Wall was the editor of Newsweek’s iPad edition, a job she landed on the strength of bylines inThe New York Times, Salon, Wired and The Christian Science Monitor, as well as editing stints at the Huffington Post and the Freakonomics blog.

But as Newsweek was laying off staffers leading up to the death of its print edition, Ms. Lafsky Wall decided to go in an altogether new direction: since January, she has been the director of content at HowAboutWe, a startup dating site with a blog about courting, relationships and romance.

The articles Ms. Lafsky Wall produces are indistinguishable from those on brainier women’s blogs. Recent titles include “Millennial Women Rejoice: It’s Our Hookup Culture, Too,” “The Adventures of Dating in Davos” and “Beware the Rom Com Curse, Says Science.” They’re well-reported and well-written, helped by the fact that HowAboutWe pays at the high end of web writing rates.


But hindered by the fact they’re not actually journalism.

Then again, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?


The fact that brand-sponsored blogs are modeled after traditional online media has been the key to their ability to attract writing talent. Urban Outfitters, for example, has a women’s lifestyle blog featuring life tips, smart-girl celebrity crushes, food, photography and animated GIFs, not unlike The Hairpin or The Gloss. The only difference is that a lot of the “must have” items can conveniently be found on the Urban Outfitters website . . .


Another example:


Then there’s Degree men’s deodorant, which wanted to align itself with active lifestyle coverage. Instead of buying ads on websites and in magazines already in that space, the brand decided to create its own. The Adrenalist, a web magazine “powered by Degree Men,” features stories about extreme sports, gear, gadgets and outdoor adventure, many of which are pushed out on Facebook to the brand’s nearly 790,000 followers. The only giveaway that the site is paid for by Degree is a link on the upper right-hand corner with an image of a deodorant stick and a link to the product line.

“In-house, some people asked if they were going to compete with Gillette’s blog,” Mr. Hazard said. “The executives said, ‘No, we want to compete with National Geographic.’”


The sad fact of the matter:

They do.


John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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