ASME Revamps Guidelines as Clients Push Ad/Edit Rules

At a time when buyers are getting bolder about crossing the church-state boundary, the American Society of Magazine Editors last week said it would revamp its 26-year-old editorial guidelines.

Sid Holt, who is steering the changes as ASME’s newly appointed CEO, said the guidelines—which cover publishers’ print and, more recently, digital products—have not kept pace with the evolution of magazine brands or consumers.

“The world has changed dramatically,” said Holt, who is the former editorial director of Mediaweek parent Nielsen Business Media and editor in chief of Adweek Magazines (now AdweekMedia). “They don’t seem to be current, so a lot of questions come up about them. We’ve had situations where we’ve seen violations of the spirit of the guidelines but not the guidelines themselves.”

ASME president David Willey, editor of Rodale’s Runner’s World, named Eric Schurenberg—the former Money editor who was recently let go as part of Time Inc.’s reorganization—to lead a team of ad-industry and magazine execs who will rewrite the guidelines. Holt hopes to present them to ASME’s board for approval by mid-2009.

Holt said the ad community would play a greater role than in the past in crafting guidelines, but the idea, he stressed, is not to favor clients. “It’s not a question of being friendlier or harsher,” he said. “We want them to be more industry-friendly in that they make sense to editors and advertisers alike.”

ASME created its guidelines in 1982 to safeguard the editorial integrity of magazines. The guidelines address issues that include the use of logos, ad adjacencies to editorial content and advertorials.

Editors and publishers say in recent months, clients have become especially aggressive about pushing for a cozier ad-edit relationship.