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Editors vs. Advertisers...Tough Call
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Ah, yes; one of the most interesting relationships to date in cross-industry life is that between editors and advertisers. Who ultimately dictates the conversation?

The answer is not as easy as you think.

In the United States, we have been spoiled with the idea of "freedom of the press," the notion that the government has no right to tell media personnel what should or should not be published; in exchange, journalists and reporters abide by a code of journalistic privilege, meaning that they know what material should be published, and which shouldn't.

But how does advertising fit into the mix? Usually very well.

The proliferation of our press can be attributed to advertising. Because advertisers wanted their brands and messages in front of those who consumed newspapers, magazines, and other media, advertising served as a happy subsidizer of our nation's news outlets. When specialty and trade magazines came out, and when special editions of large magazines became big, like-minded advertisers wanted a piece of that pie.

Occasionally, there's a rub in the relationship. Cue Washington Post Magazine.

Yes, the WP writer brings to light a disagreement between editor and advertisers on a recent Education issue, and several articles that were set to appear didn't make the cut because a couple big advertisers were against the content.

And the writer was not happy.

We can relate. A term too many advertisers have heard in the past is "pay to play," meaning that if we had some fluff, or content that could help a reporter's story, we would receive "higher consideration" if we placed an ad in the said publication.

Legal? It's murky. Ethical? We guess it depends on who is asking the question.

Like any relationship, it requires a give and take. Can all sides of a relationship be happy? Absolutely! But it is foolish to say that a good relationship is one where a single side can always get its way. 

What we are saying is this: due to the recent dive in the integrity of journalism, no magazine or institution can pull the "holier-than-thou" card. That era is done and over with. If you want advertising, you can start playing the negotiation game, a game that advertising has had to play, by itself, far longer than the editorial "elite."

But does it mean that advertising should always get its way? By no means; for we know our colleagues, and their demands and can as ridiculous as, well...as editors.

And take this with the grain of salt, editors, as you should. We're in advertising, after all.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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