Thursday, April 16, 2015

American Society of Magazine Editors adopts modified guidelines for making and placing ads

The American Society of Magazine Editors has released its latest set of guidelines for editors and publishers concerning ads and editorial and they are a marked departure from previous versions. For instance, it now no longer says ads should not be sold on covers; and it no longer specifically states that editors shouldn't write ads or collaborate with advertisers.

The slow evolution (erosion or watering down some would say) of these guidelines is apparently being forced on the society by changing economic circumstances of the magazine industry, reeling from loss of ad and circulation revenue to digital media. ASME apparently decided that rather than continue to publish an ever-lengthening list of prescriptions, CEO Sid Holt said in an Ad Age interview, the intention was to make them apply more widely across many platforms (print, web, mobile, apps, social media and even events) and to boil them down to one prescription: "Don't deceive the reader."
"The old guidelines were like a map," explained James Bennet, president and editor-in-chief of The Atlantic as well as an ASME VP who helped draft the revised protocol.. "We want to provide a compass that will help editors orient ourselves as the landscape continues to shift, regardless of whether we're operating in video, events or social.The goal was to focus on the principles rather than a set of specific, very prescriptive rules." 
ASME first published ad:edit guidelines in 1982 and has periodically updated them since. A committee of eight print and digital editors wrote the new guidelines, which were unanimously approved by the ASME board. 
"They are still the same principles from 1982, but with the media changing, these are the opportunities to say these are our core principles as magazine journalists and they have support of publishers and media buyers," Holt said.
In Canada, the industry guidelines have gone through a similar evolution, going to far as to rename them from being "advertising:editorial guidelines" to become a "Canadian Magazine Industry Code of Reader & Advertising Engagement". These remain more strict about such issues as ads on covers, but similar to ASME, strongly prescriptive rules have been tweaked, modified or even abandoned over the years.

ASME now says that practices such as "native advertising", marketer-provided content and so on should be avoided when they mimic the look and feel of a print or digital publication and that such advertising devices should be clearly labelled. However, many publishers have ignored such strictures and seem likely to continue to do so, no matter what the guidelines say and despite penalties such as being excluded from entry the U.S. magazine awards. (In Canada, there are no such penalties.) 

The new guidelines met with approval from some media buyers and agency executives who were quoted by Ad Age.
"Moving away from irrelevant hard rules to permissive guiding principles eliminates the unnecessary 'choke hold' and allows for more interesting, innovative and creative story-telling across platforms, screens and pages," said Robin Steinberg, executive VP-director of investment and activation at the media-buying agency MediaVest.
"We support the new ASME guidelines, which are evolving to reflect the current marketing-media landscape," said George Janson, managing partner and director of print for GroupM. "What remains important is the trust that consumers have with their favorite magazine brands. Once that trust is compromised, it's difficult to get back."

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