On sponsored content in book journalism

Here’s an interesting one: I read about 20+ sites a day from which I gather the links that will become the Bookninja news roundups. Everything from established books sections at major papers to little backwater blogs chugging along in relative obscurity. And when I find news about the Canadian publishing scene, I try to prioritize it and give it top billing.

That said, what happens when you find Canadian news but realize someone paid the outlet to put it there. It’s not uncommon, these days, the advertorial — articles written by the publication, but for which the subjects are paying. So you have a new rum? Pay Food and Drink to write about it to ensure you get coverage. It would be like me paying Poetry to review my book. Should I be linking to this sort of stuff? I mean, it’s nice to see an international venue like Publishing Perspectives, a site I sometimes visit because it covers a wide range of topics from around the world, cover how well Quebec publishing is holding up during the pandemic, but the little word “sponsored” down in bottom corner gives me the willies.

Now, let’s be honest, Bookninja is no bastion of journalistic integrity. It’s a news aggregator with sauce, an opinion blog that covers hard news and plays for a laugh by saying things we are generally too polite (and often beholden) to casually say. But there’s no money being traded for any of this. I just do it because I was reading all this stuff anyway and I’m bored. That said, I’m not sure where these sorts of things fit in. Especially, if I hadn’t noticed the word “sponsored” (shudder) and just posted it like it was real coverage. That’s how these things get legitimized, through camouflage.

The point is it LOOKS like journalism, but is it? Who paid for it? Why? Would I feel better if both those questions were answered in the “article”? I mean, I WANT to know what’s happening in Quebec. But I want it reported on, not cribbed from press releases and client notes. What’s your take?

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