Spot the difference…Churnalism & Advertorial

Some of you might be thinking “what is the difference?” and for many members of the public they might not realise when they have been subjected to some shameful Churnalism, but for PR professionals the differences are glaringly obvious.

With hundreds of press releases being sent out to journalists every day is it any wonder that the odd article looks uncannily like one of those press releases? Churnalism is just that. When the professionals we call journalists copy press releases word for word and pass them off as their own written word, we the public are subject to Churnalism! The Media Standrads Trust launched their website Churnalism so that anybody can take an ‘article’ put it into their search engine and find out if they have been the victim of some shameful Churnalism!

Advertorial on the other hand is when a publication or journalist are paid by a company or PR agency to publish a positive promotional ‘article’ about a company or product (that was a lot of P’s in one sentence!). Although nowadays the public can spot an advertorial a mile off, at least in these instances the journalist hasn’t just passed off a press release as their own work. Most advertorials have obvious clues that suggest that the piece is essentially just an advertisement, phrases such as “special promotional feature” or simply “promotion” are usually a good give a way. Although advertorials are not journalism, they also don’t (in all cases) profess to be, unlike Churnalism.

In certain cases Churnalism can be of benefit. For example when handling important information from the Government or the NHS it is often beneficial for a press release to be published word for word to ensure the correct information is put across. But surely even in these cases their should be a disclaimer that the piece is basically just a press release? After all people buy newspapers and magazines to read journalistic writing not copy and pasted press releases, otherwise why are we paying for a newspaper and funding journalists?

Advertorials can be a good form of promotion for a company especially when accompanied by other tools like competitions, Churnalism on the the other hand is not. As already mentioned, cases where information that needs to be put across to the public word for word like Government or NHS statements, can make Churanlism acceptable, but in any other case it is just pure laziness on a profession that is struggling without using such slothful methods. It’s not beneficial for a journalist or publication to be seen copy and pasting press releases and it can also reflect badly on the company who’s press release it is. Universities and colleges have whole departments dedicated to screening students work to check for plagiarism, maybe the Government should employ The Media Standards Trust to take on this role to check publications for Churnalism? Just a thought.