The competition regulator, Graeme Samuel, has expressed the view that convergence between advertising and content is happening only at the edges of mainstream media.
I disagree. The blurring of editorial and advertising is one of the dominant trends of our time. This raises many questions, but the one of most relevance for Graeme Samuel is its impact on the already hard to define market for news and information. How do you measure editorial integrity and its value?
Some straws in the wind. In a recent article in The Australian‘s media section, some of Australia’s largest advertisers were reported to be commissioning “branded content”. And in the latest issue of Professional Marketing magazine, an article proclaims that in the online world conventional advertising is “way out of date”.
“In 2006 we’re talking about blogs, blurbs, RSS feeds, buddy lists and combining instant messaging with all of the above… Obtrusive advertising isn’t going to win you any friends. Ensure that it is your creativity that engages the audience in a relevant, meaningful way.”
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Meanwhile Jack Marx, the beautiful writer behind the compromised Fairfax “Daily Truth” blog, has been giving his opinion on the role of newspapers and journalism. It is entertainment: “Those who claim to be repositories of wisdom regarding the ‘role’ of the media are full of it, because, beyond servicing humankind’s hunger for amusement, the media has no ‘role’ upon which civilisation will stand or fall.”
It’s a convenient point of view for Marx, given that, as reported by Crikey previously, his blog was commissioned by the makers of the vodka premix drink Absolut Cut in a deal described by Fairfax Digital’s national sales director, Liam Walsh, as a “perfect fit” in last week’s issue of B&T.
Absolut Cut is on a mission to appear “cool” to young people who see themselves as too smart to be influenced by conventional advertising. The idea is to associate the product with hip “cultural creatives” such as Marx.
The whole thing becomes impossibly complicated, because of course Marx’s “don’t give a damn” attitude, while undoubtedly genuine, is part of what makes him so attractive to the target audience for Absolut Cut. You can’t separate the man from the commercial message.
Marx’s defence of his commercially compromised role is strikingly similar to that of John Laws in the cash for comment affair. That is: don’t hold me to any notions of journalistic ethics. I’m just an entertainer. He argues that a person who reads the newspaper in order to be informed is not necessarily any better than one who reads it for the cartoons. Being well-informed is just another kind of entertainment. In his article in B&T, Fairfax Digital’s Liam Walsh says that Jack Marx’s blog is “close to my heart” and an example of “how publishers are evolving online to meet advertisers’ needs while keeping a distinct separation of advertisers’ needs and editorial decision-making.”
I wonder if anyone has spelt out that “distinct separation” to Marx? If so, they might like to share it with Graeme Samuel.