Many journalists have varied opinions on the ethics of sponsored content. Our team enjoys the privilege of seeing it done well, and not so well. Here are our observations and recommendations for the ethical and effective use of sponsored content:
Would you publish the content as an editorial article?
Sponsored content runs the gambit from really terrible advertorial pieces to high quality editorial which happens to be sponsored. The most effective sponsored content is written by an editor and tells a story relevant to the local audience of your newspaper.
Ideally, sponsored content packages would only be offered and curated in a way that allows the content to be very high quality content which engages your audience. That makes the sponsorship respectable and ethical.
Make it clear which content is sponsored
No advertising is worth eroding your audience’s trust. So be sure to very clearly mark any sponsored content so that your audience can appreciate which content is sponsored vs. not sponsored. Choosing a local newspaper publishing platform that makes this simple and easy to do is key to a successful sponsored content program.
Explain your sponsored content policy clearly
Publish a footer on each sponsored article which links to your sponsored content policy. Ensure that your sponsored content policy clearly outlines who writes the content, how you select or approve content sponsors, and what they can expect of your team in terms of involvement in that content.
Sponsored content can be even more ethical and more effective than display advertising
An effective sponsored content strategy can be more effective for your advertisers and a better benefit to your audience than traditional display advertising.
Imagine your newspaper with no annoying and attention distracting display advertisements. Train your sponsored content team to effectively optimize content for favorable search engine ranking results. Train your sales team to properly communicate those pass along benefits to your advertisers, and you may find yourself in the dreamy position of very little display advertising, and larger advertising revenues.