So-called "sponsored content" — when a publisher goes from being journalism to a platform for sale


The native ad (or sponsor content, as the Atlantic calls it) guidelines are part of a 1,000-word advertising policy that the brand created and that apply to all its ads. For now, the standards only apply to the Atlantic, but (Atlantic President Scott) Havens said he expected that the company’s other brands would likely adopt them.

Read the full piece at

In this AdWeek article “After Scientology Debacle, The Atlantic Tightens Native Ad Guidelines — Sponsored content will become more prominent on the site,” the publication is portrayed as embarrassed it let an ad from an organization it does not like get onto its site. It’s not embarrassed, though, that it presented ad material in largely the same way it presents actual journalism.

Good for business, perhaps. And I’m all for making money to cover the overhead.

But at some point in this process your primary business becomes selling your platform, making you marketing or media but not predominantly journalism. Learn a lesson from newspapers, which declined as they became more about selling audience to advertisers than about news.

It’s a Kantian world — means ultimately matters more than ends.