An article today in Forbes on ethics in sponsored content brought back memories of our recent discussions regarding UBM Tech's methodology changes and the larger discussion about whether corporations can be expected to deliver ethical content.
The article points out that Edelman has posted their own set of ethics regarding sponsored content that remarkably mirrors Footwasher Media's position: That it isn't PR or advertising. It's something different from what most corporate advocates practice and it must be, by nature, ethical or it loses all value.
Many people in the news business have taken ethical standards for granted. They seem to believe that they are intertwined with the genesis of journalism itself. It isn't true. The news business, supported by advertising began in the 1700s with Benjamin Franklin's founding of the Pennsylvania Gazette, but the separation of advertising from editorial did not appear until the mid 20th century, and the codified standard of ethics for journalists did not appear until 1973 (I know because I helped write them). Even today, however, you would be hard pressed to find a journalist who knows what those standards are or even applies them in full.
We are entering a new age in journalism and communications. It is different from what it was 50 years previous. I imagine it will look different from now in another 50 years. Ethics will arise from the practice as an evolutionary process, no matter what anyone else thinks.