Call me old-fashioned, but I’m still a big believer in the separation of a magazine’s editorial content and its advertising. I’m not adverse to advertorials (advertisements written in an objective tone and designed to look like a regular story or feature)–in fact, I’ve written plenty in my career–but lately they seem to be taking over a few of my favorite titles. It has reached the point where I can’t tell where the editorial ends and the marketing begins.
There is a logical reason for this, and it stems from good intentions. Marketing is becoming more about creating relevant, engaging content and telling stories that matter to audiences rather than cranking out self-congratulatory press releases, puff pieces and promotional PR. I’m all for good storytelling and anything that promotes how a product, service or company can make a difference in people’s lives. But as a reader, I don’t like the confusion–and interruption–advertorials sometimes create when I kick back with a magazine for a leisurely read.
The biggest offender of late comes from one of my new favorites, Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. Overall, the pacing in this magazine is flawless. Flipping through the March issue recently, I moved effortlessly from section to section until I reached it: the “Special Advertising Section” that looked exactly like a previous department.
“But wait,” I said, flipping back a few pages. “Didn’t I already read this part?”
After confirming that I had, in fact, read all of the stories in the Life department, I realized that this was simply an advertorial designed to look like a department. In keeping with advertorial ground rules, the section was printed on a shorter stock of paper with a glossier finish, but the fonts were the same, and the stories included bylines and content similar to other departments. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the magazine was trying to promote, until I flipped to an ad on a previous page and realized that this supplement had been sponsored by a local television affiliate and its midday lifestyle show. Other than getting me to notice the station’s website address, printed in small type across each page of the “department,” I’m not sure what this advertorial accomplished.
Frankly, I was too annoyed by the blip it caused in my smooth reading experience to care.
Again, I’m not against advertorials. Really I’m not. And I appreciate how vital advertising is to magazines, especially in this economy. However, to editors and publishers everywhere, I plead: If you must use advertorials, make those logos a little bigger to set them apart from the rest of the magazine, and for heaven’s sake, please don’t put them where they don’t belong.