It just so happens that I did my project on the evolution of the newspaper the same week John Oliver did a bit on advertisements. I actually had a difficult time bringing in all of the information in my paper before I watched this episode. For background, John Oliver’s new show called Last week with John Oliver, talks about a specific topic for around 15 minutes. He uses comedy to talk about just how ludicrous the subject matter is. This specific bit talks about the relationship between advertisements and print newspapers.
The one thing that print newspapers had going for them was the large separation between advertisements and the writer. The writer was able to write subjective matter without having to please any company or corporation. If anything they were able to write about how a company, corporation, or politician was doing something wrong. The most important thing for a writer is being able to subjectively investigate into wrongdoings of people and that’s why being separate from advertisers is important. Writers cannot have a company influencing their work because then it takes away from the argument. It begs the question of whose argument are we actually reading? Well, the New York Times has decided to go down an ally that they cannot return from.
The New York Times (and other print media but I will focus specifically on them because their domination in the print media industry) has decided that it will create sponsored articles in the news paper. Sponsored articles in the simplest definition: advertisements that look like articles. So corporations now have the ability to go to the New York Times and create giant advertisements for themselves that people are not able to differentiate from real articles. This can be a good thing but it also is creating a slippery slope.
For example, one of the quasi-good Sponsored Advertisements in the New York Times was about Women in Prison. Now who do you think was the company that paid for this advertisement:
Netflix for Orange is the New Black. This was a genius marketing play by Netflix. They were bringing attention to the important topic of women in prison all while promoting their television show. Now again, it was a well-written article and well thought out but still this is separating the line between writer and advertiser.
The Sponsored Article by Chevron definitely not a good thing in my opinion. They were talking about the complex flow of energy involved in Oil. They were trying to complicate the issue of oil to make it so complicated to the viewer that we would not care about the issue. This is a billion dollar company making an “article” in the New York Times.
All of this is a result of our actions. We don’t pay or read print newspapers at levels we used to so someone or something has to pay for the employee’s of the New York Times. So it makes sense that they would bring in advertisers and companies to fill the gap people not buying or having subscriptions to their newspaper.