Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Topic channels planned for Folio, Event Marketer

Red 7 Media will soon launch new Web-based, editorial products for two of its B2B magazines -- Folio and Event Marketer.
Both publications are planning topic-specific channels that cover niche areas in their industries. There's much to be said in favor of the move. I tend to think that there's growth to be found in B2B publishing by drilling down to serve smaller niche areas.
Also of note is that the new channels will feature RSS feeds. That's a first for Red 7. And in the era of information overload, topic-specific RSS feeds are the way an ever-growing number of people prefer to get news.
Event Marketer has a list of its channels here. You'll be asked to register for the site before you can proceed to the 34 topics such a "tents" and exhibit design." But as of last night, most of the channels were empty and still "under development."
One of the few channels that is functioning covers "experiential marketing." Take a look.
If you're anything like me, you'll find there's something about the product that feels inappropriate.
The channel's sponsor is Polaroid, and the company is getting some nice play for its money. Polaroid's logo appears directly under the channel name. The description of the channel has copy that sounds like it came from Texaco Star Theater or one of those other 1950s variety shows. "Welcome to the Experiential Marketing Channels page, brought to you by Polaroid Corp." Polaroid also gets an ad in the upper left-hand corner and an "About Polaroid" section on the left side that lists how the company can help at events. Polaroid's name and logo are also featured in two white papers available for download on the channel.
As a reader, that sort of advertising overkill makes me suspicious.
As a journalist, what is most
disturbing to me is that the channel hasn't drawn a clear line between advertising and editorial copy.
The channel has two articles sections. One is written by Events Marketer's staff. The other says it is "sponsored by Polaroid," but that is misleading. The section isn't just "sponsored by" Polaroid; the section contains articles seemingly written by the company's public relations staff.
Click on either type of story and the articles appear in nearly identical templates. The font is the same. The ads are the same. The color and layout are the same. The only difference is that the Polaroid-provided articles carry a small disclaimer that they are "sponsored by Polaroid."
That's a clear departure from the ethics guidelines set by American Business Media, which say the "layout, design, typeface and style of special advertising sections or custom publishing products must be distinctly different from those of the publication."
Although I suppose it's possible that people in the events industry may not care about such things, I don't think readers of Folio -- a magazine about the magazine world -- will accept such a blurring of the ethical line.
I like Red 7 Media. I like its publications. I know and respect the company's executives and journalists. Perhaps that's why I'm so troubled by this. I expect more from Red 7. I certainly expect more from Folio, which I see as a leader in the publishing world.
I don't know yet what Folio's channels will look like. There's nothing on the site about the channels project. Perhaps Red 7 has a better plan for Folio. I hope so. I hope, too, that someone at the company will rethink the Events Marketer channels.

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