Gosh, editors can be irritating? Especially when they resist running thinly disguised advertorial. Don’t they realise that all that fourth-estate stuff is just plain old-fashioned?

That’s the message in a revealing item in this week’s advertising trade magazine B&T. Its Career Couch item is a regular agony aunt column in which senior industry figures respond to problems.

This week, the dilemma is from a person who works in media sales for a “consumer magazine” who complains: “Whenever I try to talk to, or get cooperation from, my so-called colleagues on editorial they make it really hard. I’m sick of it. What should I do?”

The responses make it clear, in case anyone was still in any doubt, that in magazineland these days there are no firm walls between advertising and editorial, and editors who behave as though there are should fear for their jobs.

The group advertising director of Emap, Cameron Hoy, is the bluntest : “I have to say I find it hard to believe that in 2007 you are facing these kind of internal issues.”

Emap has 30 publications in Australia, including New Woman, Mother and Baby, Zoo Weekly and Slimming & Health. Readers of those publications be warned.

Hoy says all departments have to “assist a commercial outcome” and suggests “Talk with your editor to help them understand the demands of the media environment that we all work in. Talk to them about the rising influence and revenue growth of a brand’s funded/integrated content platforms, product placement, co-branded marketing initiatives and cross-platform deals. All of which rely heavily on the cooperation of content and commercial departments.”

He also suggests that the questioner approach the publisher with the problem. “The role of publisher was created to deal with the very issue you describe; to ensure effective cross-function collaboration for the benefit of the brand as a whole.”

Hoy goes on to describe the editor of a publication as its “brand-custodian” who should “play a key role” in successful commercial outcomes, but insists that all this “is in no way devaluing the editorial product, its independence, credibility and relationship with the reader — they are after all the key qualities in any great magazine.”

Interesting to know how he squares the statements.

Meanwhile, the executive editor of Famous magazine, Ali Wick, jokingly suggests that bribing the editor might be the solution before telling the questioner to arrange a daily catch-up with the editor to “explain fully how you think the proposed project fits in”. The only reason editors reject “certain products”, says Wick, is “because we may not deem them right for the brand. Hardly a strenuous defence of the line between editorial and advertising.

That’s how it works in the glossies, and I guess we all knew it was so, although it is not normally so frankly admitted. But how different is it in newspapers? Can we ever rely on what used to be a firm line between advertising and editorial? I don’t think so.

These days people in our major media enterprises refer approvingly to “modern, commercially minded editors”. This is code for those who regard the boundaries between advertising, marketing and editorial as porous and malleable. Given the contempt expressed by the honchos of the advertising industry for editors who try to defend their product’s integrity, there is no reason at all to feel secure.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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