Kasper Nymann / Shutterstock


Eagle-eyed readers may notice a new feature here on Re/code today. It’s called “Sponsor Content,” and is, for us, a new form of advertising. Known broadly as “native advertising,” this is a category of ad that takes the form of an article written by, or commissioned by, an advertiser. It’s widely used online, but the technique actually goes back well before the Web, when print publications ran articles written by advertisers that were called “advertorials.”

Some websites might try to present these ads as if they were normal posts written by their reporters, editors, or curated guest contributors. We won’t be doing that. You’ll notice that we clearly label them “Sponsor Content” with a blue label instead of our usual black one. We also use the company logo next to the writer’s byline, and, at the bottom of each such post, include a disclosure statement saying that the article is a form of advertising, and was neither written by, nor edited by, our journalists.

That doesn’t mean these pieces are bad, or unworthy of your time. It doesn’t mean we are embarrassed to post them. In fact, we hope you will find them interesting. It just means we want to keep faith with you by making things clear.


 So, a few things - mostly revolving around why this is a good thing. Believing that advertising,  direct advertising in particular, is the "rock in your shoe" of reading online content is like saying "I will never drink another soda that tries to convince me it tastes good." They all do it and advertisers are going to keep doing any and everything to get in front you in every aspect of your life, on the internet too. It's the only way the services you love can keep feeding you content. The free internet fairy you subscribe to that says all advertising is the devil doesn't have to pay the bills that keep this lovely content coming to you. Remember when you slammed the newspaper down on the kitchen table because the consumer reports section only promoted cameras from the top 4 name brands? Oh wait, that never happened. Direct ads have been around for years and the internet is no different. At least it's less obtrusive than the 300x250 you see to your right, or above if you on mobile :).

SECONDLY, walk back over to Walt and apologize because unlike certain online publishers, he is graciously painting a scarlet letter across any sponsored content. This not only diminishes the money he will make but which advertisers will play ball. He's doing this for you, the reader.


 Couldn't agree more. I never buy anything advertised in a way that intrudes or distracts on my ability to read material on the site. I understand advertising is needed to pay the bills, but these advertorials are too much like the real content and are just used to confuse. 

Walt, if you need to advertise, do it in a way that doesn't fly in the face of honorable journalistic practices. 

Trying to justify it by a color is silly, but if that's the way you want to go, get rid of the garish red graphics with slanted pictures and frame all of these advertorials with that color and a slanted shape. That will make it easy to avoid.


And thus continues the slow and painful death of journalistic integrity.


It's nothing different than the full page ads in newspapers. 

To assist with showing it's sponsored, perhaps add an animated GIF of Walt rolling on a bed of money at the footer of the ad as well.


Thanks but no thanks. The entire premise and general theory of these types of ads is to fool the reader into thinking they are real content. Blue bar vs black bar? Come on Walt. If you really wanted to clearly identify them how about hazard orange!

While I truly appreciate your candor and honesty and integrity warning the readers about yet another banner to ignore as you forge (or is it forage?)your way out of the all things d, I would prefer to simply pay you not to bog down my reading experience, tie up my data plan waiting for the banner ad network to feed me useless random key word driven ads for things I will never buy.

Do you know how I know this? Simple I never buy anything from an ad. That would be stupid and if I did I would be a mindless drone taking financial direction from a really badly designed ad.

Again come up with a price for me to pay you to do what you feel you deserve to be paid to do. I'll consider it. And probably pay you what ask. If you think it's a fair trade.

To be clear. I want the information you provide. And I'm willing to pay you for it. Stop with the holy grail of advertising panaceas already.

By the way these advertorials spelled the end of the pubs they appeared on and sparked "the great digital migration" of the 2000's.

Keep up the good work and please send me a bill. No seriously.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 308,923 other followers