Selling editorial space

At the Dutch Media Professional day in Amsterdam yesterday, the editor in chief of free daily Spits, Bart Brouwers, explained that there were four ways to get into the newspaper. Three of them were known to the audience, the fourth way was rather new.

  1. You make the news by doing something newsworthy.
  2. Buying advertising space.
  3. Paying for an ‘advertorial’. This is actually a variation on advertising: placing an ad that looks like an editorial piece.
  4. The last way in Spits is buying editorial space, which caused some disturbance among most audience members. An example is the deal the paper made with a bank, the Rabobank, to cover their Tour the France cycling team. The bank provided access and covered expenses. The paper could included negative news, but then the bank could pull out of the deal.

Brouwers, however, said that such a model would only be possible for a free daily because their readers accept much more than readers of paid papers.

Spits is not the only paper to use a model like this. Free daily De Pers also has a deal with the Rabobank, they have a weekly page on hockey, sponsored by the bank as was reported by website Emerce last week.

5 Responses to “Selling editorial space”

  1. Andreas Says:

    It is quite astonishing that they talk so openly about such an sensitive topic. But as I read in the October issue of the “Journalist” there is no kind of Presserat in the Netherlands that functions as watchdog organisation concerning the separation of editorial content and advertising, right? In Germany there are strict rules to be able to punish newspapers breaching those regulations.

    Indeed, it’s one of the main arguments against the introduction of free dailies in Germany: the fear that those papers would only be a platform for advertisers to get their messages spread via a seemingly reliable and objective source.

  2. Bart Brouwers Says:

    @Andreas: but that’s not what we do. We are not “a platform for advertisers to get their messages spread via a seemingly reliable and objective source”. For one thing, we don’t do this on news-pages. Next, we are as open as possible about it. And furthermore, we are not making ads; we write interesting, relevant articles on topics that are good for readers and advertisers as well.
    And most of all, we are not ashamed of it, which is rather unusual, I admit. Most dutch newspapers (paid for and free) do it in some way, but hardly any editor-in-chief is open about it. Which is a shame.

  3. Andreas Says:

    It’s indeed rather unusual that you are not ashamed of it since most newspapers that do the same for sure are. I think it is good that you openly talk about it and of course you are not making ads – but that is exactly the problem (also with other papers).

    An ad would be noticable to the reader with all the implications (maybe less trust in the message, …). But when you write an article that is financed by the firm you are writing about there certainly is a “scissor in the head”. All the more when the firm can opt-out as consequence of (too) critical/negative reporting. Since the readers probably do not know about the financing your reports construct their picture of the Tour because they think the articles are only written according to journalistic standards. Furthermore the Tour-case is a very sensitive topic due to the doping problem cycling is associated with …

    To cut a long story short: To me it’s quite similar to embedded journalism but it’s good that you at least admit that you are embedded. The second thing that is really new about it is that there is a concrete agreement and not just an informal one typical of journalism.

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