Picture yourself opening up your favorite magazine or newspaper to a random page. On one side is a huge full-color ad for the newest tequila on the market. It conjures up images of fun, beaches, and friends and makes you desire the same good time that the models are having.
On the other side is a three-page article written by an editor who researched and tested out all the different tequilas and wrote them up based on smoothest, best taste, purest, and other factors. Which tequila would you rather buy? For the marketing literate, chances are that you will most likely trust the written and researched article because you are cognate of the shallow techniques used in a glossy ad. Even for the average person, ads have become so abundant and overt, that even someone without a marketing eye can discern the desperation in the ad and look to the review for concrete advice.

Editorial vs. Advertising

There’s a reason that people read reviews in magazines and newspapers. They trust unbiased third-party coverage. Reading editorials in a newspaper or magazine creates a sense of credibility and potential consumers perceive the information to be reliable. In fact, the strongest predictor of article and organizational credibility…is the author’s perceived expertise, but in today’s digital age, that expertise is largely determined by the level of co-orientation between the sender and receiver. Yes, editorials are opinion, but it’s the opinion of one or more editors, rather than of the product marketers themselves. Experience has wired consumers to view advertising as self-promotional, which it is, and therefore not as credible.

There is a different style used when writing advertising versus editorial. Advertising tends to use more explosive and exaggerated language, conveying feelings over function. Editorial on the other hand, tends to give a more upfront perspective about the actual quality of the product based on experience. People read magazines to be informed, get advice, and be entertained. They look to these print publications for pleasure, yes, but also for enlightenment. Therefore, they are already going in with the mindset that they will be able to glean some guidance from the editorial they read.

Print Publications and the Internet

With communication becoming increasingly digital in nature, people may argue that print is a dying medium. Newspapers and magazines have no choice but to jump on the digital bandwagon since iPads and other tablets burst onto the tech scene, and some solely publish virtual issues. Lonny for instance, a successful online-only fashion magazine was founded by Michelle Adams when she noticed 12 other tangible magazines fold. The success of her business can be based on her keen realization that online was booming and virtual publications would be easily accessible to her demographic. Although it is most likely that print will remain for a while longer due to demand for tangibility, it is important to know how to filter the overwhelming clutter that occurs on the Internet.

Online content is cluttered because there is unlimited storage in cyberspace. People can essentially write about anything they desire, and making it difficult to filter out the unreliable content. Print is far simpler to distinguish because for one, articles appearing in print publications are usually written by educated, trained, and experienced professionals who possess some degree of authority. They often have to comply with a stricter set of rules than those followed by online writers, as well as face stricter laws about libel and slander with regards to the validity of what they write. While the internet is an excellent source for information, it is also more accessible and less regulated than magazines or newspapers. Magazines and newspapers are usually all available online too, making the Internet a carbon copy of what is printed, however blogs and opinion pieces often cloud the credible Internet content.

Editorials or Advertorials?

There is also a more discernible distinction between editorials and advertorials in print publications. Print advertisements have to clearly state that they are a paid placement, whereas websites do not always differentiate as clearly. The line is blurrier with broadcast media as well, where a DJ or television host may throw in a product plug for a sponsor right after they introduce the show. Viewers however are often aware of this built-in advertising, and thus may discredit what they perceive to be product plugs.

Ultimately, print is the oldest medium, and still the most reliable. Once something is printed and published, it is there to stay. It cannot be changed like the Internet or forgotten like a television or radio placement. A stellar editorial placement in a magazine or newspaper is something that will be read and reread. Even though digital media is a strong presence in the publication arena, something is to be said about the validity and authenticity of print.