Editorial neutrality needs protection during sponsored content projects

Editorial neutrality needs protection during sponsored content projects

April 24, 2018 Uncategorized 0

While ASBPE’s ethics code includes several guidelines defining editorial staff participation in marketing activity, the section requires amendment covering sponsored content activity. A chapter devoted to ethics in my book—Get Serious About Editorial Management—observes that “in larger companies, this requirement is best fulfilled by a representative of the publisher’s sponsored content department. In smaller firms, publishers should look to freelance writers who specialize in content marketing projects.”

The matter is currently being discussed in a LinkedIn Update discussion I initiated addressing editorial neutrality issues, A key concern, I suggested, is that even though the content may be labeled as an advertisement, readers still assume that the publisher endorses all claims because the information is presented in an editorial format. If no separate in-house department exists, suggested discussion contributor Robin Sherman, monitoring “is best left to the top editor, editorial director or content director.” An editorial consultant and immediate past chairman of the ASBPE ethics committee, Sherman added that he handled the function while a corporate editorial director. His reason: “Publishers too often were looking for short cuts or short gain at the risk of long-term credibility.”

During ASBPE’s previous ethics code revision, we clarified the forms of marketing assistance editors could provide:

“A senior-level editor may work with sales personnel to ensure that no conflict exists between the advertiser content and editorial content. Thus, the editor may suggest topics for the sponsor, but the publisher or the sales staff should be the ones to communicate these suggestions to the sponsor. (In other words, the editor should not communicate directly with the advertiser.) A publication’s editorial staff should not write,edit, design or lay out special advertising sections or supplements. This role should be handled by a freelancer hired by the sales staff or a separate non-editorial department.”