Few things have gotten the business side of trade publishing companies as excited in recent years as the revenue potential from custom publishing. Companies such a Cygnus and Penton have even started separate units to create and market vanity publications for clients.
Now comes word that corporate spending on custom publishing rose 19% last year to $35.5 billion. Certainly that's good news for the bottom line of many a B2B publisher. But it does leave me wondering about the nature of custom publishing, and some of the ethical risks.
I remember there was considerable debate about a decade ago when it was still fairly routine for publishers to ask journalists to write for custom publications. I don't think you'd find a serious journalist anywhere who doesn't have a problem with that. And today I'd be surprised to find anyone other than the most amateur of operations failing to use a separate staff or freelancers to produce custom pubs.
American Business Media's "Editorial Code of Ethics," the latest version of which I blogged about earlier this week, specifically condemns the use of editorial staff "in the preparation of custom publishing."
What I'd like to know is if this is still the issue it was a few years ago. I'd love to hear from any editorial staffers who have been pressured to write for a custom publication, corporate Web site or similar product.