The Dismal State of the Digital Media

This article popped into my inbox from Readthisthing.com a while back. It’s a pretty harsh look at the state of digital journalism, why “native advertising” has grown, and why there aren’t more full time gigs out there for talented young writers.

In case you haven’t heard, journalism is now in perpetual crisis, and conditions are increasingly surreal.

But for every crisis in every industry, a potential savior emerges. And in journalism, the latest candidate is sponsored content.

Also called native advertising, sponsored content borrows the look, the name recognition, and even the staff of its host publication to push brand messages on unsuspecting viewers. Forget old-fashioned banner ads, those most reviled of early Internet artifacts. This is vertically integrated, barely disclaimed content marketing, and it’s here to solve journalism’s cash flow problem, or so we’re told.

​The idea of native advertising just seems wrong to me. Perhaps it’s because I’m one of those people who exhaustively research a potential purchase, wanting to know all the good and bad aspects of something. Balanced writing seems to be hard to come by and native advertising is only making it harder.

Last spring, the American Society of Magazine Editors relaxed its guidelines for native advertising, changing “Don’t Ask Editors to Write Ads” to something resembling a wink and a nod: “Editors should avoid working with and reporting on the same marketer.” So much for the firewall.

​Another bad sign for the industry.

And so it is that American journalism, in this late decadent phase, has come to mistake its biggest rivals for its dearest sponsors.

​The author paints a pretty dim picture for his chosen profession. He seems to think that big brand publishers, who have money to pay writers, should stop paying “name brand” journalists so much and instead hire a few more writers at lower/reasonable salary. That makes sense but doesn’t seem like a solid long term solution.

​I don’t pretend to know anything about the journalism industry…so what is the answer?

The Rest Is Advertising | Jacob Silverman

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