Letter: Florida paper packages ads as feature stories

From CHRIS ARRANT: I just discovered something really disconcerting at my hometown paper [Panama City News Herald]: they’re doing articles/reviews of businesses for a fee from the business, but not telling the reader they’re basically “advertorials.” Here’s an example.

I became aware of it because I do some marketing for restaurants in the area, and the paper’s sales rep tried to sell me on this. It seems really awkward. I’m a small fish in a small pond, but is this sort of thing acceptable in the newspaper industry or is this something else? I’m concerned of a slippery slope here, and it’s made me question everything in the paper and which articles were only published because money changed hands?

(I have sent this email to the publisher and advertising director of the Freedom Communications-owned paper and have invited comment. — Romenesko)

Comments

comments

3 comments
  1. Steve Doig said:

    My local paper, the Arizona Republic, uses the euphemism of “News by You” to tag story-like PR pieces written by flacks and advocates. I don’t know if the space for those is sold, however. I think the Republic just sees it as content they don’t have to pay for.

  2. Harvey Unger said:

    Chattanooga paper does it in its dining and real estate sections. Also not labeled as advertorial.

  3. anonymous said:

    I used to work there in the newsroom and I can absolutely say with a 100% factual accuracy that the advertising department sells editorial coverage as part of various advertising packages. For instance, say a big fishing tournament buys X amount of advertising, it gets specific editorial coverage – even pleasing editorials and columns. One of the many reasons I left.