Commentary

It's All Contextual At Forbes

Are we about to witness the break-up of the once sacrosanct editorial/advertising Maginot Line as Forbes' editor-turned-"chief product officer" Lewis D'Vorkin plans to sell Forbes' blogs to advertisers? Are we, both PR pros and advertisers, about to enter a new land in which "anything can appear in any place as long as it's contextual?"

Recently, some of the remaining Forbes editors and writers were given blogs, from which solicitations have been made to outsider contributions, which appear under the Forbes banner. To formalize the new design/product program, called "AdVoice, Forbes will launch a redesigned magazine and website this week which will give "advocacy groups or corporations such as Ford or Pfizer the same voice and same distribution tools as Forbes staffers, not to mention the Forbes brand," according to Advertising Age's Michael Learmonth.

But D'Vorkin says it's just a more "scalable content-creation model ... [in which] the marketer or advertiser is part of the Forbes environment, the news environment."

This may sound like heresy coming, as it does, from a veteran journalist, but he takes the position that in a world of fewer journalists and a shrinking pool of business media, how can companies get the word out? AdVoice intends to facilitate the communications process by enabling corporations to become participants in the publishing process (and take another step toward becoming media companies; something yours truly has discussed in earlier columns).

Again to quote Ad Age, "For the last, however many, decades of traditional media ... You're an advertiser so stuff can only go here. And our stuff? It goes right here. But there's a flow of content that's contextual. Anything can appear in any place as long as it's contextual -- that's the web, and we are bringing that sensibility to the magazine."

Is "context," then, to become the dominant editorial criterion of our age? Will ad agencies and PR shops be allowed to buy, on behalf of their clients (i.e., Johnson & Johnson, the Egg Board, BP, Toyota, Citicorp, etc.) editorial space in order to pen and publish contextual rebuttals not subject to journalistic scrutiny?

Forbes even plans to offer assistance to help position marketers' content so it becomes contextually compatible. Sure seems like the dawning of a brand new day to me.

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