As iMediaEthics wrote, in mid-January, The Atlantic unpublished from its website a Scientology advertorial that looked just like a regular article — replete with a comments section. Interestingly, all the comments posted on the ad before The Atlantic took it down were complimentary of Scientology. The advertorial did disclose with a “sponsor content” tag and a note at the bottom that it was “sposnor content presented by The Church of Scientology” but The Atlantic apologized for its “mistake, possible several mistakes” in the advertorial.
The guidelines specifically for “Sponsor Content,” which is what the Scientology advert was, include:
- Advertorials must be labeled as “SPONSOR CONTENT” with a disclosure that “this article is written by or on behalf of our Sponsor and not by The Atlantic‘s editorial staff”
- When readers are allowed to comment on advertorials, “the sponsor will not have any role in moderating such comments” and “the only moderation of such comments will be” to “prohibit spam, obscenity, hate speech, and similar content.”
According to Ad Week, The Atlantic’s president Scott Havens said that the magazine “failed” with the Scientology advertorial, explaining:
“We published content that we didn’t work with our advertiser on. It was largely a press release. The comment stream exploded, and to control it, the staffer was holding back on publishing the negative ones.”
Hat Tip: Media Bistro Morning Newsletter