Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Good content, bad conduct

If you're going to create a digital edition -- and as I've said before, the only reason to do so is "so that a print product can be sent to people who otherwise wouldn't get it in a timely fashion" -- check out the work of GIE Media.
The B2B publisher is launching a digital edition of Lawn & Landscape Magazine, even though, as the press release says in immodest fashion, L&L already "offers you a fantastic Web site, dynamic interactive message boards, an online Dealer Search feature and numerous other Web tools."
In other words, GIE is offering a digital edition in addition to its Web site, not instead of a Web site.
It's also worth noting that GIE's Web offerings really are pretty close to "fantastic." This is a company that understands the nature of conversational editorial. Heck, even the press release has a feedback function!
That's not to say that I'm completely thrilled with GIE. And here's why. The announcement of the digital edition is, as I said earlier, a press release. It's a well-written press release. It's informative, sort of fun and gets its point across well. But it is a press release.
And it offends me when a publisher runs its own press releases as editorial content. Giving editorial space to someone in marketing -- whether it's someone from your company or from some other company -- is a violation of our ethics standards. And pretending that these ethical standards don't apply to our own ads and our own marketing material is a mistake.
I mean seriously, if the world of journalism has a belief system it can be summed up in these two sentences:
Only the laziest reporter runs a press release without editing it.
Only an unethical company runs ads in the space reserved for editorial content.
I've written before about what I see as GIE's lapses in this area. And people from GIE have responded by phone and email. Some of them have agreed with me. One did not.
GIE isn't the only B2B publisher to engage in such behavior. I've lost track of the number of times I've seen promos for publisher-sponsored trade shows dropped in the middle of news pages.
In response to such practices, I have suggested that ASBPE, which is in the process of revamping its ethics guidelines, clearly state that in-house marketing material is an advertisement, and must be clearly delineated as such per the ad vs. edit guidelines.

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