Blurred Lines: Native Content and Editorial Independence

Native and sponsored content in B2B publishing within the pharmaceutical and related industries.

I was recently in a meeting at a pharmaceutical trade show between Orientation Marketing, our client and a media owner.

In the meeting, the media owner's representative asked our client for an update on a proposal they had sent our client based around sponsored/native/collaborative content, and our client replied:

"Why would I pay for content to be published when you are doing such a good job for me for free?"

Our client's rather dry reply got me thinking of the potential benefits & pitfalls around working with media owners on native content and editorial independence.

I came to the conclusion that whilst native content is a valuable marketing tool, both the client and media owner need to be careful that short-term gain is not at the expense of longer-term harm.

CHURCH VS STATE

Let's take our clients response as a starting point, they are in the envious position of being a well known, market-leading brand and as such, they have been a 'go-to' contributor for pharmaceutical editorial content for-ever.

The experience they have amassed and the ability to communicate it well means that there are no shortage of publishers queuing up to get them to talk about topics from E&L to Security of Supply, and consequently asking them to pay to see their content on the same topics published is challenging.

How does the client know that the publisher won't reduce editorial opportunities so the client has to pay to see their content published? Why would a media owner reach out to a contributor and offer them a free editorial opportunity if the media owner has an outstanding proposal for paid-for content?

With decreasing print revenues, publishers' editorial resources are limited and if two articles need writing, one traditional editorial and one sponsored editorial, which will take precedence?

The leading B2B pharmaceutical publishers have built a strong reputation and readership on trusted and independent editorial output. If this is diminished by an increase in sponsored content, the value of the audience to our customers is also diminished.

GUIDELINES

My view is that there absolutely is a place for sponsored/native content in B2B publishing, but both the quantity and quality of the output needs to be managed.

Good sponsored content should have just as much editorial value as traditional editorial content. The advantage to the sponsor should only be their ability to control the topic and timeframe.

Good publishers will have a set of editorial guidelines drawn up similar to those in the newspaper world, where client and publisher alike both understand where the boundaries are and the repercussions of stepping over those boundaries (having the dreaded word advertorial printed at the top of your content).

Check out someone like Texere Publishing for a good example of collaborative content (and the guideline framework around it) done right.