I’ve spent my entire career in the media. My background is TV news and newspapers. I came of age when news organizations respected the church/state separation of advertising and editorial. That is, the news side of a publication is separate from the advertising side. The two don’t mix. Editorial decisions are made using editorial values: newsworthiness, compelling story, good visuals. Advertising decisions are made based on our business needs but stories aren’t for sale.
There has always been a little wiggle room in those values, especially in local media where advertisers and newsmakers are often the same people. And, of course, it’s easy to see how they might conflict when you are talking about a business magazine, where businesses are both content and advertising. Still, whenever anybody asks, we always say that news decisions are based on news values and advertising decisions on business values.
The world has changed in the course of my career and the media’s church/state line gets blurrier every day (come to think of it, it’s not as clear as it once was for the real church and state either). Our ad salesman, Dave Bechtel, who hasn’t spent his career in the media, challenged me the other day. He thinks we should use editorial coverage as a sales tool. Every business has a story, he figures, so why not tell the stories of those businesses who support us financially? After all, lots of other magazines do it and even some newspapers do.
I objected that the implicit agreement between the editor and the reader is that editorial content is not for sale unless the reader is alerted that they are reading an ad. He asserts that distinction is a media industry myth, that 95% or more of our readers don’t distinguish between the two and don’t care if they are alerted. If he’s right, I should probably change my thinking.
So that prompted our first ever reader survey. I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit more about you, our readers: your preferences, your values, your ideas. If you’ve read this far you likely have an opinion on this and a few other questions, so please take a few minutes to take our survey (it shouldn’t take long…only ten questions).
The link is on our website: www.hamiltoncountybusiness.com. Click Take our Survey on the right hand side of the Home Page. You can remain anonymous if you wish but to make it interesting we’ll draw randomly from the entries who provide an email address for a dinner and date night: a pair of tickets to Motown the Musical on March 28 at Old National Centre and a $50 gift card to Stacked Pickle. We’ll leave the poll open through the month of February. If we get a significant response I’ll be sure to share the results with you.
See you around the county,