Our Email to The Weekly Standard About Selling Out Its Writers

As the hardworking staff has recently noted, the Philip Anschutz-owned Weekly Standardlogo-new-large-TEST has been playing footsie with the Philip Anschutz-owned Xanterra Parks & Resorts in a series of pieces lauding the National Parks that lard Xanterra’s coffers.

What puzzles the headscratching staff is why the Standard would conscript its estimable stable of writers rather than set up a separate brand marketing shop along the lines of the New York Times’s T Brand Studio.

(To be sure graf goes here)

To be sure, not every publisher maintains the wall between native advertising and editorial staff – witness Time Inc. and Condé Nast’s nasty business of pimping out their editors for stealth ads.

Regardless, we have sent this to Weekly Standard editor William Kristol:

Dear Mr. Kristol,

As a charter subscriber to The Weekly Standard, I have long admired many of the magazine’s writers (Joseph Epstein, Andrew Ferguson, Matt Labash, and Geoffrey Norman, among others) and much of its content (especially the arts and culture coverage).

Indeed, that’s why I find the Standard’s recent dalliance with Xanterra Parks & Resorts so troubling.

It’s not just the auctioning off of editorial pages to Xanterra’s branded content. It’s more the involvement of your writers – Joseph Bottum, Geoffrey Norman – in the enterprise.

The fact that industrial billionaire Philip Anschutz owns both The Weekly Standard and Xanterra Parks & Resorts only exacerbates the problem.

I am a media analyst in Boston and have written about this issue several times on my website Campaign Outsider (see here: http://goo.gl/gcK5rH)

Granted, branded content/native advertising is the wave of the present for publishers both online and off, but could you explain why you are using Weekly Standard writers to produce it when others are at least establishing separate divisions to create ads in sheep’s clothing?

Campaign Outsider

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

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3 Responses to Our Email to The Weekly Standard About Selling Out Its Writers

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    I tend to agree with you on this one, John, but your remarks beg a serious question to which you should, perhaps, offer a well reasoned answer:

    How are print journals to make money at a time of decreasing readership and advertising inches?

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      Glad you asked, Mudge. As I wrote in my email to Bill Kristol, I get it that native advertising can be a significant source of revenue for publishers (although there could well be a long-term cost in terms of editorial credibility – but that’s a different discussion).

      So I’ve made my peace with native ads on two conditions: 1) that they are clearly labeled, and 2) that they do not involve the editorial staff of the publication.

      It’s the latter that’s at issue in the case of The Weekly Standard. No doubt Xanterra wants the credibility and authority of the Standard’s writers to make its branded content more appealing. But those qualities are exactly what its branded content threatens to erode.

      That’s all I’m saying.

  2. Pingback: The Weekly Standard Pimps Out Its Cover and Writers – Again! | Campaign Outsider

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