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Free newspaper — paid news?


Dear Tina Chadha and Editors of (Boston) Metro,

I’m not a regular reader of Metro but I happened to flip through today’s issue while on the Green line. On the “Careers and Wealth” page I found a text by Ms. Chadha “Use the Internet to keep on track”  which describes a single product by the Behance network in glowing terms. It includes  3 graphic elements: a picture of the current product and its earlier incarnation and a little button that says “Learn more at” which is the website of the company, not of your publication or some independent or generic organization. (The online version has no graphics, but the text includes a clickable link to the website for the product.) I’m unable to see what distinguishes this item from a marketing pitch for a commercial product. Is it in fact an advertisement? Did Behance compensate Ms. Chadha or Metro for this piece? If so, what is Metro’s policy about labelling such “advertiorial” content? In a brief search, I didn’t see anything that looked like an ethics policy on your site to help readers figure out what your policy about paid articles might be.
If the company didn’t pay for this excellent promotion, you’re doing yourselves a huge disservice by not writing the article in a way that makes that clear. Even more so if Ms. Chadha actually “reported” this story rather than just re-writing a helpful press release.
Feel free to post your response in the comments field on my blog –  I notice you don’t have comments enabled on your site, which is a pity.

Persephone Miel

Image – my own snapshot of the paper version of Metro, since the online version doesn’t have the graphics.

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