A Code to Publish By – and Why It’s Important Now

Magazines Canada just took a major step in helping publishers better understand the nuances of advertising content in the current media landscape. In a special edition of the Magazines Canada AudioMag, Joyce Byrne and Kim Latreille, the duo behind the updating of the Code of Reader and Advertiser Engagement, discuss the importance of the Code, how magazines can make use of it and why it is important to update it in 2020. Listen to find out how and why you should be making use of this document.

The original code was written in 1999, Byrne explains, as a set of guidelines around the appropriate labeling of advertising within the magazine environment. It was updated in 2013 to take into account more modern advertising and publishing practices – like native advertising, sponsored content and advertorials.

“Here we are seven years later and we’ve definitely seen a number of modernizations, shifts, different approaches within our industry,” Byrne notes, referring to the growth of native advertising and other hybrid forms of advertorial.

“Many publishers see themselves as brands, and so their editorial content is appearing in so many different channels, particularly in digital where we have all kinds of different activities like social and newsletters and websites,” Byrne continued. “This was a really great opportunity for this group to take a look at where we might add some additional clarity, some additional guidance for editors and other people within the business, around the labeling of advertising vs. editorial.

“The goal here really is to ensure that there’s a clear distinction between the two,” Byrne states, stressing that ambiguity, especially in the current climate, can be detrimental to the reader relationship. At the same time, there’s more pressure for publishers to get creative with new revenue opportunities.

“There’s great pressure on both sides to come up with creative ways of delivering the [advertiser’s] message in our products,” Byrne explains. These guidelines allow publishers to embrace new revenue opportunities while having some much-needed guidance on how to appropriately label the content.

In print magazines, we know from our readers that the advertising is a valued and welcome part of the experience – unlike social or digital ads that leave a bad taste in their mouths. As an industry, it’s vitally important for publishers not to confuse the audience or mislead them in any way, by leaving room for doubt whether a piece of content is advertising, editorial, or a hybrid of the two.

The audio interview gives a good rundown of the why behind the changes and may help clarify things for publishers in the States as well. Definitely worth a listen.