We wrote not that long ago about Facebook setting up a program that would help advertisers create content, and it appears that CNN thinks this is a good idea since they’re setting up their own studio to do the same.
The Wall Street Journal states that the channel, best known for its news reporting, is creating an in-house projected named Courageous that will produce news-like content and display it across CNN properties. That sounds… really, really icky and questionable.
Look, my feelings are that CNN can do whatever it wants, as can pretty much anyone else. However, while I am very much in favor of the idea of advertising that melds as seamlessly as possible with regular content, mayhap it shouldn’t be integrated with the news, especially on a serious news channel. With as much misinformation that dashes around the Internet, do we really need a news organization posting, promoting and creating what appears to be news but is really advertising?
According to the report, CNN is looking to create this content based on newsworthy topics, such as the opening of a new plant or philanthropic efforts. Furthermore, CNN claims that it’s goal isn’t to blur the line between news and advertising.
“This isn’t about confusing editorial with advertising,” said Dan Riess, executive vice president of integrated marketing and branded content at Turner. “This is about telling advertisers’ stories — telling similar stories but clearly labeling that and differentiating that.”
However, it is going to do exactly that. When you see a sponsored Tweet or sponsored Facebook post, it’s marked as such, but they are designed to look as much like a regular Tweet or story as possible. When you see a clip on CNN or a on its webpage, you’re going to assume it’s a news story. This is especially true if you happen to come into it in the middle and they only note that it’s an advertorial at the beginning or end.
Again, it’s not that CNN can’t do this; it’s their channel and they’re looking to make money. It’s just that it’s more than a little unseemly.