Is Boston Station Blurring Line Between Ads and News?

By Kevin Eck 

It seems a Boston station is testing the viewers appetite for the separation between advertising and journalism.

The Boston Globe reports CBS owned WSBK recently started running an interview segment called A Few Good Minutes produced by a local marketing firm and the CBS owned MyNetworkTV station.

The first segment aired at the tail end of WSBK’s 10:000 p.m. newscast Thursday night. You can watch the video down below.

Hatched over a breakfast meeting between CBS Boston president Mark Lund and A&G vice president Joel Idelson more than a year ago, “A Few Good Minutes” offers some of the same informational qualities viewers would expect from a reporter’s interview but without the probing inquiries and tense moments. Idelson, friendly and smooth, handles the on-camera questioning.

The partnership between a news station and an ad agency brings together different types of media companies that historically have maintained a wall of separation but are increasingly intertwined, as news outlets seek alternative revenue streams and marketers try to embed their messages in the programs and pages people want to consume — a strategy known as native advertising or sponsored content.

In one prominent example, The New York Times last year launched T Brand Studio, which produces stories, graphics, and videos that promote corporate interests and appear on the Times’s website. A page devoted to the subject of female incarceration, for instance, served as a native ad for the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” and was marked as a paid post.

The Globe in April hired a director of content marketing to oversee the creation of sponsored content.

If “A Few Good Minutes” is well received on CBS’s secondary station in Boston, it could be replicated on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and potentially some of the corporation’s 27 other local news stations across the United States, according to Avry Sandler, director of content development and commercial operations for CBS Boston.

“I think the audience is looking for new opportunities to consume content,” said Lund. “This is a way for us to break out of the confines of the traditional broadcast model, being flexible and going where the marketplace is going.”

Here’s the video. Does it look like TV News to you?