On the Merging of Commercial and Editorial: Do We Need to Draw a Line?

By prenasharma / / Earlier today, Mashable’s Lauren Indvik wrote about the increased intersection between editorial and branded content. The two seem to have willingly come together using a “content and commerce” business model. Magazines help ensure that retail is presented positively with high-end photo shoots and reputable recommendations—but they’ve always done that within their pages. The difference now is that retailers are essentially becoming magazines (offering advice, examples) and vice versa. Indvik asks, “Where will the editorial line be drawn?” Today I clicked on roughly six tweets that popped up in the right hand corner of my screen (Tweet Deck: a convenient beast). One tweet, from Nylon Magazine, featured a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen video. After MK and A exercised their simpering smiles and talked about the inspiration for their line, The Row, the name “Net-a-porter.com” flashed across the screen. I didn’t realize I was watching branded content until the last second. In a link below the video, I noticed I could then shop The Row at Net-a-Porter. The chic online retailer also hosts its own monthly magazine. I clicked on a tweet from Electric Lit and read an interview with Lorin Stein on Park & Bond. P&B is primarily a men’s retail site. The interview is part of a section they call “The Intersection,” clearly between their commercial style and editorial content. The site also features specially curated clothing selections including a GQ collection. “Like what you see in the pages of GQ? Now you can get it—and wear it—right away,” the tagline proclaims. In erasing the boundaries between reading and buying, editors and retailers risk losing their identities. If a magazine stops recommending “the best” and instead promotes their best offer, they lose credibility. When reading a magazine becomes reading a catalogue, it loses its luster. Simply marking branded content is an adequate solution as long as it’s done sparingly. Many magazines already lend brands their font and page arrangement styles so that commercial content blends with official editorial creation. But with “advertisement” written timidly at the top of the page, I know I’m apt to dismiss what I just read, berating myself for “falling into the trap.” Then again, if retailers maintain a cutting-edge aesthetic and include engaging content on their platforms, (better done digitally) perhaps consumers won’t mind the melding. Even though Net-a-Porter sponsored my Mary-Kate and Ashley video, I still got the content I wanted. I loved the Lorin Stein interview, and I’ll recommend P&B to my boyfriend. The convergence of showcasing and selling seems to be a positive transition and, as Esquire’s editor-in-chief says, “People really understand the nature of media properties that they’re reading or using or viewing. They know when the primary goal is to entertain and inform.” Ultimately, consumers will buy what they want and get the advice they need, whether it’s from GQ or Net-a-Porter. Magazines are already brands themselves as well as brand hosts (ever notice that the September issue is half ads?); this trend simply takes the relationship further. As long as their content answers to audiences and covers a good portion of the vast wealth the world of fashion offers, it’s legitimate. Editorial can be commercial until it becomes one-dimensional.