Thursday, November 26, 2015

In a good light

I was pleased to see the issue of "native advertising" on raised at the DCMS Select Committee hearing yesterday, by a bright young lad from The Guardian. He focussed on a continuing gripe over the BBC's online efforts in Australia. For the BBC, Fran Unsworth put up a robust line, saying, yes, there were news staff in the former colony, funded by either advertising or the advertising opportunity, creating a "front page", but everything was done under fair trading guidelines. And, she said, her CEO had contacted The Guardian with some suggestions about collaboration, but there had been no reply.

There's more to be done about "native advertising"on the BBC Worldwide sites. You can see in this country; it boasts 17 columns, though it's not clear whether or not that means 17 authors. In any case, that's a substantial commitment. BBC Capital, also viewable here, currently features  an article entitled "How the rich stay rich", written by a Canadian freelance. It mentions Momentum Advanced Planning, Fleming Family & Partners, Doric Sky Cloud funds (you can invest in airline leasing), Stonehage Investment Partners (spookily, part of the Fleming Group), RBC Wealth Management, and has a hyperlink to another Capital story, 'How to buy fabulous fine art'.

The art story features The Sydney Art Exchange, Sydney's amBUSH gallery, the BMO Financial Group of Chicago, Australia-based art consultant Amanda Love (available on a $2,000 retainer per client) and a New York gallery offering a 10% discount. It's written by Megan Snedden ('adventure and authenticity').

The site is not visible in the UK. BBC Future is, and has helpfully put up a list of seven editorial staff and 12 regular columnists (though it has more regular features). Items (surely not clickbait) include "Why do dogs look like their owners ?" and "Five ways to have a skin orgasm".

I'm not suggesting that any of this is paid-for, or 'advertorial'. But it's definitely not traditional BBC territory. If hits to this sort of story count towards 500 million users, then the target is meaningless.

On transparency, it would be interesting to read a list of "native advertising"clients for for stories living within both Worldwide and BBC pages. Are there, perchance, any clients that are governments ?  The culture of political parties paying for newspaper stories in Africa and Asia is deep and long (including payments to not to publish).

If a hack worthy of the name is ever asked to write anything that might present a government or company "in a good light", they should run a mile, pronto. BBC hacks further and faster, in my view.

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