Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Atlantic’s Scientology problem, start to finish

The Atlantic’s Scientology problem, start to finish:

"The piece was classified as “sponsor content,” hardly a novel approach to generating online revenue. Natalie Raabe, a spokeswoman for the Atlantic, says that such “native ads” are making their way onto on a “regular basis,” though figures weren’t immediately available.

Native ads are critical to The Atlantic’s livelihood. They are one element of digital advertising revenue, which in 2012 accounted for a striking 59 percent of the brand’s overall advertising revenue haul. Unclear just how much of the digital advertising revenue stems from sponsor content. We’re working on that.
Though the Atlantic has done many such advertorial packages in the past, Raabe says that it hasn’t received complaints — at least that she’s aware of."

I know something about this challenge. I was managing editor during the first years of Oregon Business Magazine. The ad folks were always trading ads for stories, without consulting me, and it always irked me. It was impossible to criticize a major advertiser in our pages. Our business profiles by and large were fluff pieces, some written by me, some assigned to freelancers.

Oregon's former governor Tom McCall
At the same time, I somehow managed to do some work there that I'm still proud of, especially a long profile of former Gov. Tom McCall shortly before he died, a result of hanging with him for a week with a tape recorder on. I caught him in a time of life when he was ready to go on record about certain things for the first time. Old time journalists in town were amazed by my piece, by what I got him to say, but it was just good timing. And maybe that we got along and the unusual method I talked him into, just hanging and talking, from which I manufactured an interview the way a playwright creates dialogue, then let him revise it. He was a journalist himself and didn't think much of my suggestion at first. But it worked out. For both of us, I think.

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