US magazine editors give native advertising guidance

Who: The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME)

Where: USA

When: 15 April 2015

Law as stated at: 9 June 2015

What happened?

In the US, the ASME recently updated its guidance for magazine editors and publishers (the “Editorial Guidance”).  This new Editorial Guidance reflects the growth in native advertising and provides tips on balancing ethical standards with taking up the various advantages offered by this trend.  The key consideration must be that the reader’s trust in the magazine’s integrity and independence is not jeopardised.

The Editorial Guidance provides the following advice specifically in relation to native advertising:

  • The difference between editorial and marketing content should always be clear to the average reader, regardless of the context and format.
  • Editors should be careful on websites which contain user-generated content, aggregated content and marketing content to ensure that readers are able to distinguish between editorial and advertising content.
  • Any adverts which replicate the “look and feel” of editorial content should be avoided.
  • Adverts in both print and digital media should comply with the Federal Trade Commission regulations which state that when an advert, “uses the format and has the general appearance of a news feature and/or article for public information which purports [to be] independent, impartial and unbiased … the Commission is of the opinion that it will be necessary to clearly and conspicuously disclose it as an advertisement.”
  • The Editorial Guidance recommends the use of terms such as “Advertisement”, “Advertising” and “Special Advertising Section” for print adverts.  This should be shown horizontally and centred at the top of any such advert.
  • The Editorial Guidance also recommends that native advertising should be labelled as “Sponsor Content” or “Paid Post”.  They also state that this content should be visually distinguishable by readers from any editorial content and any sponsored links should be identifiable as advertising.

As the ASME have explained, these Editorial Guidelines could be summed up as “Don’t deceive the reader”.  This is reinforced by other principles highlighted within the Editorial Guidance such as: not submitting editorial content to advertisers for approval; and disclosing any e-commerce relationships to the reader.

Why this matters?

Native advertising is a current hop topic for regulators in the US and Europe, who are updating their rules and guidance to reflect the situation.  Although some of the recommended labelling may not work so well in the UK, the fundamental principles are all as important to bear in mind here as much as they are in the US.

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