Two blogs I regularly read have both had posts in the past week about the ad/edit divide. Canadian Magazines draws attention to a piece in MediaWeek calling for stricter ad/edit guidelines, but the thoughts brought up on Ed Speaks are what really resonated with me.
Stricter guidelines are good, but the editors-in-chiefs and publishers and ad sales teams are the ones who are directly affected by guidelines, who have the opportunity to push back with advertisers. For the majority of editors, though, those of us working day to day to generate content, we can only nod our heads and say, "Yes, I agree." We don't interact with advertisers so can't do much to uphold the rules, to guard our line in the sand.
My experiences have been similar to those of Ed's: either myself or friends have been asked at times to ensure inclusion of all major advertisers in a piece about such-and-such type of product, be it moisturizers or paints. Or an advertiser's product is given preference over a nonadvertiser's product: when it comes down to a decision between the two, guess who wins.
It's not so much that I think this compromises our integrity or blurs the boundaries, because I think (hope) we're all smart enough to recognize what's good for our readers, but I wonder whether these are conversations we should even be having? Should we not be saying let's have a broad range of brands so our readers have options, as opposed to so we can make our advertisers happy? Is it naive to think editors should be able to gloriously go along without a thought to advertisers, a utopian dream of sorts? Does it even matter if the end result is the same? If our readers still get a magazine that they love? In reality, we have two sets of clients: the readers and the advertisers. We have to please them both in order to survive, no?
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.