If anything, the walls between advertising and reporting (a necessary sisterhood in traditional, for-profit media) should be shored up. But with both advertisers and journalists worried about their bottom line, it often seems like the walls are crumbling further. Take twitter-advertising–a new offering that pays you to tweet sponsored ads to your followers.
Twitter could hardly be categorized as “journalism” itself, but at the same time, it has clearly become an important linkage between readers and journalists, as well as a type of news alert network for many traditional media outlets. Blending advertising tweets with reporting tweets clearly blurs the line. Should, and will ad-tweets and news announcements ever mix? The New York Times seems to say no, at least for now.
Advertising Age reports that while individuals and celebrities like Kim Kardashian (whose Twitter following reportedly allows her to charge $10,000 for a marketer’s tweet, according to AdAge) can already cash in on Twitter advertising deals with a service called Ad.ly. But the New York Times told the site it’s not interested right now, “despite nearly 2.3 million followers for its main Twitter feed — heady enough territory to ape Ms. Kardashian if it wanted to.”
Readers of traditional media know how to distinguish an ad on the page from a piece of journalism. On the Web, we’ve learned to be able to do the same thing with banners and pop-ups, though things can still sometimes get sticky with news feeds and online ad placement. But with Twitter, it seems the Times is arguing that it may be too hard for a reader to distinguish between an ad-tweet and a news tweet. Advertising Age reports Denise Warren, senior VP-chief advertising officer at The New York Times Media Group told them “We want to be sure that audiences really understand the difference between the paid tweet and the real tweet.” With that line ill-defined, the paper won’t go for it, though it will be interesting to see if others do.
Unfortunately, even in print, bad advertising decisions and things like sneaky advertorials are still continuing to mislead the public. It’s heartening that at least one major media venue, the New York Times, says no to Twitter-ads now. StinkyJournalism hopes the same skepticism is being brought to other equally problematic breeches in the wall between ads and journalism both at the Times and elsewhere.