“Brand Publishing, Local Advertising, and Influencers: Digital Communications Under Critics” – Cyrille Lachèvre Forum

The effectiveness of local advertising, native or built advertising or chameleon advertising in French, depends on its ability to go along with classic editorial content. This is the true meaning of the term “original”. As early as 2014, Valérie Leboucq at Les Echos noted that “large agencies have set up ad hoc structures like the newsroom of Publicis Consultants, Arthur Schlowsky at WPP. Everyone calls in freelance journalists responsible for feeding websites and brand blogs” with visibly fragile borders. growing between information and promotion.” In his pass, the journalist mentioned the already prevalent practice of “free exchange of content” with contributing media such as the Huffington Post. In other words, feathered, paid armies have emerged to feed blogs, media and contributing spaces in recent years.

in ReleaseIris Derou felt that “this form of media advertising on the Internet blurs the line between journalism and marketing”. Indeed, she indicated, The New York Times Adopt the figure (next Forbes and many others), with the possibility that “this phenomenon will undermine public confidence in the media.” Nearly ten years later, the critics are getting tougher. For Loris Guimart, the phenomenon is now “generalized”, with the editor-in-chief of Arrêt sur Images even going so far as to assert that it “has become the norm in the editorial board”.

hybrid. Loris Guimart talks about “hybrid” journalism to qualify this new world in which communications and journalism are separated from each other, with the former borrowing its form and publishing platforms from the latter. The main players are the media on the one hand and advertisers on the other. At the center, agencies and platforms have positioned themselves as intermediaries between advertisers keen to hit their target, and media looking for revenue.

Unsurprisingly, it is traditional media (the scientistAnd the Le FigaroAnd the exhibitionAnd the the point…) It is most criticized by its competitors, which are media outlets that present themselves as independent because they do not rely on advertising, such as Mediapart or Stopping Images. ” in Globalism, Advertising partners written by journalists, ”decried by Loris Guimart in an investigation conducted by the agency ASI. According to the journalist, several hundred promotional articles are published every year by the scientist, written by its editors, and paid for by major corporations! Great articles for the Pinault Foundation (Kering), the Bettencourt family (L’Oreal), the Louis-Vuitton Foundation (LVMH), the Pernod Ricard Foundation, or even the Bill Gates Foundation. Companies such as Toyota, Transdev or Veolia have also used these methods. In addition to public institutions such as AFD … For Le Monde there is no problem: this is “journalistic content of a completely different nature from branded content”.

This phenomenon, true, is spreading. For traditional journalism, local advertising is an increasingly vital source of revenue in an ever-deteriorating economic context. But also for digital media that engage in this practice in more diverse formats. In blogs or niche sites, it is not uncommon for net linkink to coexist with display (banners), affiliation, link exchange, and sponsored content.

A hard-to-decipher world made up of countless small players, huddled around an array of SEO agencies (acting as publishers for Private Blog Network or PBN, i.e. private blogging networks), web agencies, independent platforms (Malt, Upwork), platforms Link building (MotherLink, RocketLinks), Native Advertising Platforms (Getfluence, Paper Club). Not to mention the sponsored content giants like Outbrain and the many online PR agencies that provide access to media in a somewhat transparent manner.

Effect. Last year, Getfluence became one of the “100 startups to invest in in 2021” chosen by Challenges, which has made the Toulouse-based company an “international solution for editorial impact”: “a European marketplace in contact between advertisers and a select group of 10,000 “Premium” media site, general and specialist partners (including in France ChallengesAnd the the scientistAnd the Le FigaroAnd the the pointAnd the beautyAnd the La Republica In Italy, independent in the UK…). Adtech (ad tech) investing millions of euros in their algorithms, joins the ever more tech jigsaw.

The complexity and technicality of the methods can eventually lead to misinterpretations by journalists who don’t always know “behind the scenes” well: This summer, Mediapart and Stopping Images believed they saw a “disinformation establishment and” information manipulation” behind the agency’s use. French, Avisa Partners, for offline pens, for classic PBN (blogs that do not have an audience, but whose technical characteristics and network ensure high visibility), and Mediapart (common among SEO agencies) use club blogs for SEO purposes.

Criticisms raised by investigative journalist Nicholas Quinnell in Marianne: “Many companies have the same methods. Hence he points out that it is in fact an “entire ecosystem of companies that share the same methods.” Thibault Prévost, who still works for ASI, goes on to Beyond that, saying influencers will be “monitored and used by online reputable agencies,” including Webedia, but also “Publicis Sapient, Jin Agency, or Blue Nove agencies,” eligible from “public relations offices serving pesky designer lobbies.” Dark… just that.

misinformation. Faced with such complex assertions that must be proven, it is first necessary to agree on the exact terms. Talking about information manipulation is factually inaccurate. According to one expert: “The manipulation of information in France is only related to electoral periods and the desire to influence the vote. Disinformation and false news, as defined by the Brunner Committee in a report to the President of the Republic, presuppose that many well-defined conditions are met. »

Thus, in the specific case of Avisa, not much misinformation or manipulation of information could be indicated, insofar as it was not proven that the information transmitted was false, but rather a lack of transparency. In other words, one can dismiss and criticize the method, but it is about the communication strategy, not the misinformation. It is, in the words of Nicholas Quinnell, a “disguised communication advancing,” not an arrangement of “disinformation.”

The need to regulate these practices is even more urgent as these “hybrid” companies are beginning to take porous positions on the ground, further deepening the gray area surrounding these practices. Webedia and Reworld, as such, are the subject of frequent criticism, always around this created gray area at the heart of traditional journalism.

Webedia: Journalism or Advertising Company? Vincent Cocos asks about the group of more than 150 journalists and several thematic information sites. Press card holders “on a case-by-case basis,” these journalists nonetheless write content for brands, as claimed in 2016 by the company’s director, Michel Benzino. Besides local advertising, Webedia also has a brand publishing niche, which consists of brands that have their own media created, provided by in-house journalists or outside freelancers.

Critics are also too serious, on the part of a certain group of journalists, for Reworld Media to embody nothing less, according to Justin Brabant, a journalist at Mediapart and ASI, of “The Nightmare of the Future of Journalism.” The leading French magazine press group by number of titles, Reworld, represents the core of the economic (and social) model rejected by the independent press. Behind the scenes, some accuse these media sites of being “powered by a mixture of bots, Malagasy editors and “content managers” with quotas of articles written daily”, in fact, “disguised advertisements in the form of articles”, “junk journalistic meals”.

liquefaction; Therefore, new models of media monetization are under severe criticism. Since they agree to allow content with poorly defined states to be hacked, they risk misleading readers who may not always be aware of the interested nature of the articles they are reading (even if recent research casts doubt on this insight). Certainly, we can note that these attacks only stem from sites that have been politically flagged for their hostility to major advertisers. Admittedly, it can be argued that this, on the part of Mediapart and Arrêt sur Images, is a pro-Domo appeal that promotes its monetization model (based on subscriptions) and distorts that of their competitors (based at least in part on advertising and new formats).

Of course, finally, we can lament the transgressions that result in amazing “revelations” being made at regular intervals, a practice that is simultaneously described as “becoming the norm,” “generalizing” and “perfectly legal.” However, it is difficult not to acknowledge the lack of transparency in these practices, nor to note the difficulty of investigating a phenomenon that “often affects their own media,” as Loris Guimart acknowledges.

Cyrille Lachèvre is the founder of Cylans Consulting Agency.

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