A few years ago, I wrote an edition of my newsletter that I still stand behind: Job-board Journalism: Selling out the American job hunter. The article revealed how major news outlets, like the Wall Street Journal and the cartel of newspapers that bought out CareerBuilder, compromise their editorial integrity to earn big cash from job boards. Simply, these newspapers started publishing advertising in the guise of news articles to get people to use their jobs services. We know this stuff as advertorials. Its purpose is to get you to buy something — not to provide you with the balanced reporting you’d expect from a paper like the Journal.
Examples of this compromised reporting include articles about how to optimize your use of job boards (implying you should be spending more time on the publisher’s jobs pages), and “news” about how people win jobs — on the job boards. When you read this stuff, don’t be lulled into submission to an ad just because it says Wall Street Journal on it. The job boards are surrounded by articles from “experts” who are little more than carny barkers inviting you into a tent where you’ll be fleeced by a real expert.
Now, I’ve got nothing against advertising, as long as it’s clearly presented as advertising. You can plainly see that I run GoogleAds on this blog and on my web site to offset my costs. The ads are clearly identified, and although I actively block the biggest, baddest career sites, you’ll still find ads from companies I’d never endorse. Until you’re willing to pay for what I write, I’m content having that “Ads by Google” line drawn on the page between the advertising and my writing.
But, when respected news outlets prostitute their brands and pimp their news articles to make them behave like advertising in the shadow of their news banner, I get really bugged.
The latest culprit in advertorial heaven is Investor’s Business Daily. Like some other publications, IBD has a deal that permits Yahoo! to publish its articles in exchange for promotion and links back to the newspaper’s web site. Some might say that it’s not hard to distinguish news from advertorials, and we shouldn’t worry about it. But, a recent experience revealed to me that major, respected news brands can and do misuse their credibility. I got suckered into an advertorial myself — not as a reader, but as a putative contributor.
About three times a week, reporters from various publications interview me for career-related stories. I always try to make time for them, and I’ve never encountered a ruse. On April 16, reporter Gary Stern called to interview me for a story he was doing for IBD about TheLadders. My views on TheLadders are clear, and he found me through my articles about the company. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Stern. You can probably guess what I had to say. As with all reporters, I asked Stern to please send me the link to his story when it was published. I never heard back.
A May 16 “article” with Gary Stern’s byline appeared as an Investor’s Business Daily column on Yahoo, titled Climbing to job-board heaven. [Hosted by Yahoo, this IBD article has been taken down. — Nick, 1/19/09] I didn’t find out about it until this week, when a reader passed along the link. Gary Stern’s article is a pure advertisement and sales pitch for TheLadders. It reveals a total lack of editorial integrity. Gary Stern might as well have published a photo of himself washing Marc Cenedella’s feet. Given the advertorial nature of the piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if through some deal with IBD, TheLadders commissioned it. Gary Stern used one sentence from our interview, and twisted my meaning to suggest that I recommend TheLadders as the sort of “niche” job board that “skilled” people should use. I don’t.
Investor’s Business Daily has joined the ranks of the job-board hawkers, selling out its editorial integrity by hanging its brand on an advertisement masquerading as news. Maybe you can see the difference, but many can’t. It’s for those poor suckers that I take up an entry on this blog. Just because a news brand tells you a job board is worth your time and money doesn’t make it so – not even if my name is attached to it. Do your homework.
I will not stand by while my name and brand is used to promote crap. And you shouldn’t step in it because it’s labeled IBD.
As for Gary Stern, I was going to say he’s the first reporter who suckered me, but someone pointed out to me that I was merely had by an advertising copy writer. Maybe TheLadders will find Gary Stern a real reporter’s job and he’ll raise his standards.