Saturday, July 21, 2012

More HuffPo shame: sponsor-generated content and social-media marketing

I recently linked to the opening post of S.H.A.M.E.’s Huffington exposé, focusing on HuffPo’s stealth advertising. I’ve written often about subtle corporate marketing and spin techniques, including in medicine and at a certain blog network.*

The first specific post in S.H.A.M.E.’s Huffington profile, “The HuffPo Business Model: Deliberately Obliterating the Separation Between Paid Advertising and Real Reporting,” also focuses on these practices.

Yasha Levine writes:

HuffPo is not a news organization at all, according to Greg Coleman, Huffington Post's president and chief revenue officer. He told Ad Age in 2010 that HuffP was a “social-media company” that exists to "help our marketers beam their messages throughout the internet, across the galaxy, the internet, and the world."

“We make [corporations] part of the conversation,” explained another HuffPo marketing executive in 2011. “We’re acting as a social-media agency for our advertisers on The Huffington Post. We’ve become advisers to some of these companies about how to conduct the social-media outreach . . . We help them counter this sort of one-sided conversation that is going on on the Internet about their companies.”

For all the problems of traditional media, at least newspapers have some sort of a wall between news and advertising. Sure, advertisers and sponsors still wield considerable influence over editorial content, but at least there is a tension between the two opposing forces. The Huffington Post, on the other hand, is about knocking that wall down—all in the name of democratic empowerment.

Those sponsors generating content and social-media outreaching on HuffPo aren’t limited to business, including big banks, but include dictators and a motley assortment of medical and New Age quacks, some quite dangerous.

This last group leads me to wonder:… How much of HuffPo’s promotion of woomongers stems from a fear of alienating a large sector of its audience and so losing sponsor revenues, and how much reflects direct sponsorship from the woomongers and supportive organizations?

*(I haven't posted as much as I’d like to about contemporary government/military propaganda....)


  1. so basically HuffPo went where SciBlogs tried to go with the Pepsi-blog.

  2. Sorry for the much-delayed response.

    Been meaning to mention...

    I'm not sure Scienceblogs failed as fully as we thought: