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article imageOp-Ed: WSJ offers awkward definition of content partnership with Adobe

By Michael Krebs     Mar 30, 2014 in Business
The Wall Street Journal has embarked on an "editorial-like" content marketing program with Adobe, but the news organization appears to be struggling with how to define the nature of the partnership.
The Wall Street Journal entered into an “editorial-like” content marketing program with Adobe this past week, as Mediapost reported on Tuesday.
[For more on this story, please listen here to the accompanying podcast that parallels this article].
While the overall investment was not detailed in the report, the partnership is known to extend over multiple years.
At the heart of the arrangement is CMO Today, a new digital section within WSJ.com. Adobe has been targeting the marketing community across the breadth of the company’s advertising, and the investment in the Wall Street Journal appears to be a considerable content marketing blueprint that pursues Adobe’s themes thoroughly.
However, WSJ’s commercial management seems to be struggling with defining the nature of the program. There is almost a reluctance to celebrate it or to bring terms to it.
Trevor Fellows – who heads global advertising sales at WSJ – called the partnership a “native-esque” endeavor.
While the Wall Street Journal is certainly a respectable property and should be congratulated for crafting this content tandem with Adobe, this should not be defined as a native advertising program. It is more of a dual-content tandem, meaning that Adobe’s content sits in a clearly marked rectangle adjacent to the editorial content produced by WSJ.
There are two parallel channels on the CMO Today homepage: the left-most side of the page is straight-up WSJ editorial written specifically to support the new CMO Today channel (kudos to the WSJ commercial team for acquiring editorial buy-in there). However, the Adobe content clicks away to the CMO.com magazine that is owned and operated by Adobe.
If this was a native advertising execution, the Adobe content would reside within the WSJ content management system (CMS) and would be clearly labeled “sponsored by” or “made possible by” or “branded content,” etc. For this reason, it is more accurate to consider this an elaborate editorial sponsorship – with a long-form content tandem. In short, it is a hybrid program.
“We’re allowing our sponsor to place highly relevant content on WSJ.com,” Fellows said, according to the Mediapost report. ”But there is absolutely no blurring of the line between editorial and advertising.”
It is an editorial sponsorship. If you were to replace the rectangle of CMO.com content with a rectangle of advertising – adjacent to the CMO Today editorial – you would have a black-and-white editorial sponsorship. But because there are article headlines in the rectangle, none of which were produced by WSJ edit or WSJ’s Custom Studios team, some people feel a need to tiptoe uncomfortably and awkwardly.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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