Claire Walters, a local writer specializing in travel and food brought up a topic on the Boulder Media Women loop that caught my attention: those articles you see in magazines that don't appear to be paid advertising but are. You may, for example see an actual paid-ad off to the side of the article. At the very least the article itself touts the product and gives contact info. The point is, the article would likely not be in the magazine if the exposure hadn't been remunerated. YS and Boulder Lifestyle are two local examples. But companies like Subaru and chambers of commerce have them in the form of official visitors' guides. You have likely read many of these articles that aren't marked as advertising. They are essentially quid pro quo.
Our local magazines are full of advertorials. If it's not the actual point of the magazine, it's a matter of survival. I take all profiles of restaurants and other local businesses with a grain of salt (the origins of that phrase is interesting). If it weren't for these pseudo-journalism stories I might not have otherwise known there was such a person/restaurant in our midst. I'm all about capitalism. Though I'm unlikely to buy based on advertising, I might do the research to see if I'd like to know more.
You could say this is on the ethical edge. Sponsored content is deceptive to the extent it doesn't announce what it is....just as a variety of TV media pretend to be news. There will be readers who don't understand the difference, just as there will be people who trust the biggest ads in the yellow pages, assume a billboard is proof of value, and that Mikey liking his cereal is an endorsement.
And BTW "a grain of salt" was part of a poison antidote. Threats involving the poison should then be taken "with a grain of salt," with skepticism.
How do you feel about articles that are really paid advertisements?
--- From the Inkpot