From our Late to the Party Pooper desk

For almost a year now, the hardtracking staff has been dutifully recording the Fall of the House of Luce, as Time Inc. leases out its editorial content to advertisers. The latest installment comes in this WWD Media People interview with Time Inc.’s chief content officer (read: stealth marketer) Norman Pearlstine.

Representative sample of Pearlstine’s approach to native advertising (read: ads in sheep’s clothing) in Time Inc. publications:

I think that the balancing act is that you would like to find appropriate ways to have editorial talent working with [head of corporate advertising Mark Ford] and his team to come up with content solutions for advertisers and, at the same time, you have to be obviously mindful of potential conflicts if you are not careful in how you structure these things. The Time Inc. Content Solutions model is one to follow in that it’s got some very experienced journalists working on those products but they don’t engage in magazines on editorial where they’d be covering the people that they are writing about.

Translation: Time Inc. journalists will have to produce marketing material about whatever they don’t cover.

Pearlstine engages in plenty of doublespeak like that throughout the WWD interview, which anyone who cares about editorial integrity should read in its entirety.

Least believable quote:

I think what it does is put a higher premium on transparency. Yes, there may be some convergence to what you see on a screen that’s different from the way you will experience a magazine in your hand, but there are lots of ways you can signal differences. Where native advertising and these other things get tricky is when the consumer can’t tell the difference between edit and advertising. We should want our advertising to be compelling. We want advertising that works. If we can help an advertiser refine a message so it works for our consumers, we should be doing that, but at the same time, you never want to do it by confusing the customer about what the experience is. If we fail in that regard, we do our brand and our customers a disservice.

Problem is, native advertising is only effective by confusing the customer about what the experience is.

If Time Inc. is to survive, it’ll be precisely by doing their brand and customers a disservice. We’ll see how long that can last.


John R. Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is an NPR media analyst and a journalism professor at Boston University.
John R. Carroll has 298 post(s) on Sneak Adtack