Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Confessions of a Sponsored Content Writer

Jacob Silverman, writing for the Baffler, has worked as a freelance writer for a significant portion of his career. During that time, he took on a gig with the Atlantic’s native advertising division. Now, he’s written about how the press has shifted closer to advertising as advertising gets closer to it:

In his book Media Freedom, Richard Barbrook writes that during France’s Third Republic, “both national and local newspapers sold ‘editorial advertising’ to interested companies or governments.” Bribes were regularly exchanged. “Because publishing was a business,” Barbrook writes, “newspaper-owners were as interested in selling their products to advertisers as to their readers.” Plus ça change.

But as journalists imitate advertisers and advertisers imitate (and hire) journalists, they are converging on a shared style and sensibility. Newsfeeds and timelines become constant streams of media—a mutating mass of useless lists, videos, GIFs, viral schlock, service journalism, catchy charts, and other modular material that travels easily on social networks—all of it shorn of context. Who paid for this article, why am I seeing it, am I supposed to be entertained or convinced to buy something? The answers to these questions are all cordoned off behind the algorithmic curtain.

This is one of those articles that I wanted to quote nearly everything from. It’s extremely well-written, and absolutely worth a read.