The Washington Post has gone native (advertising).

From the Wall Street Journal:

 

Washington Post Opens Online Opinion Pages to Sponsored Content

The Washington Post said on Wednesday that it would let special-interest groups and others buy space on online opinion pages to respond to the paper’s editorials, in the latest example of a mainstream publisher offering so-called sponsored content.

The Post’s launch of “Sponsored Views” comes as marketers are increasingly turning to self-created articles and videos, rather than traditional advertising spots, in order to pitch their products and viewpoints.

 

Representative sample from the online tail end of a recent Post editorial headlined “Cyberattacks call for legislation and open debate.”

 

 

The website paidContent says the Post’s move is actually pretty smart.

 

There was a predictable amount of gasping and hand-waving about the Washington Post‘s launch on Wednesday of what it calls Sponsored Views, a feature that offers advertisers the ability to post ads next to specific editorial content that is about the same topic. Like most of the other experiments involving “native” advertising or “sponsored content,” it seems to have triggered some of the usual journalistic concerns about how native ads cross some kind of ethical barrier — but in many ways, what the Post is doing makes a certain amount of sense. Whether it works or not remains to be seen.

In a nutshell, the product allows advertisers to target their ads to specific pieces of commentary that appear on the Post‘s opinion pages (what newspapers used to refer to in the old print days as the “op-ed” page, because it was opposite the newspaper’s editorial page). So brands or commercial entities sign up for an account, and then have the ability to post up to 600 words of commentary that appear just below the official Postopinion piece, right before the comments.

 

But the gaspers and hand-wavers (such as MediaBistro’s 10,000 Words) describe it in very different terms.

 

What’s worse than a politically charged comment section? How about ‘sponsored views,’ the latest from the New Ventures team at the Washington Post. As if there wasn’t enough noise, the Post announced today that organizations can pay to have their comment, labeled and washed in a yellow hue, at the top of a comment section on the Post editorial section. So, say, the Center for American Progress pays a fee and their 600 word response to an editorial is there, front and center.

 

Then again, according to the Journal report, “[s]pending on sponsored posts that appear on digital sites like the Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Vice Media, for instance, is expected to rise 18% to $1.8 billion this year, according to research firm eMarketer.”

Sadly, that’s the view that matters most to content sponsors.

 


John R. Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is a media analyst and mass communication professor at Boston University.
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