BuzzFeed Forces Us to Ask, Again: ‘What Is Sponsored Content?’

Last night on Twitter, quite a few journalists shared this link along with their general “WTF, LOL” responses.

Target BF

If you don’t want to click on it, we’ll summarize: it’s a BuzzFeed listicle summarizing 16 ways in which shopping at Target is just so totally awesome–and did you know you that you can save a little more money with these super-secret tricks?!

The question: is it paid media? The answer: apparently not.

One contact attributed its appearance to the constant need for new content; its primary source appears to be the unaffiliated “All Things Target” site, and the angle holds that these “secrets” amount to “hacking” the nation’s second-largest retail chain.

One problem that many readers pointed out in the comments section: at least one of these insider tips is a myth.

A second and, as we see it, larger problem: if this isn’t sponsored, then BuzzFeed just did Target a massive favor as the post is currently closing in on three million views.

Readers also took to the comments to mention that most of these policies apply to other large retailers and that the relationship between Target and Goodwill may not be quite as generous as suggested.

We do hope that someone at Target pitched this story to BuzzFeed. If not, we have to ask: did you really need to advertise the retailer’s own free app?

The line between paid and earned media looks quite blurry from here, and at the very least, we will greet future BuzzFeed Target coverage with skepticism.

And we wonder why so many consumers bristle at the concept of corporate journalism.