Everyone’s got to pay the bills, but when we noticed that Jim Romenesko, journalism stalwart, has started offering sponsored content on his site—our hearts sank just a little. Has it come to this?
“Have news to share with the journalism community? Consider a Sponsored Post on this page. Contact Tom Kwas for information,” his morning reports say at the bottom.
If Romenesko—whose former media notes blog at Poynter.org was legend—has joined the journalism devolution into advertiser-controlled coverage, who’s next?
Sponsored content is kind of a scourge on the already beleaguered enterprise of journalism, but a scourge with really big dollar signs attached. Despite the trouble it can cause, the money is proving difficult for news orgs to resist. For example, Atlantic Media learned the hard way just how tricky a line this can be to walk when it posted and then pulled down a sponsored piece by the Church of Scientology. Roll Call has a new defense blog with content written by a defense contractor. No way that can go wrong.
But then, Buzzfeed’s main revenue model goes a step further with what they call “native advertising” — Buzzfeed style pieces actually written by Buzzfeed staff and posted to the site for advertisers. That’s what we’d call the opposite of journalism, but no one has really seemed to mind all that much even though the posts are barely distinguishable from the site’s organic content.
Romenesko, for his part, labels the posts clearly. There’s just the one that we’ve seen so far, and it’s so poorly written that you could never mistake it for an actual Romenesko-created post.
If sponsored content is what it takes to keep Romenesko blogging, then so be it. Still, this is a brave new world, isn’t it? We contacted Romenesko to request comment, and will update when and if we hear back.
UPDATE: Romenesko tells us he has been posting sponsored content for a couple months now, though they’re deleted from the site after a period of time. And to our anonymous tipster, thanks for telling us what we already knew—we were just waiting to hear back before we drew any firm conclusions about when this started. Sorry if we’re a little more thorough a Google search.