Can you spot what’s different here, on the Politico homepage?
There’s Jake Sherman on Congress — nothing new there.
There’s Ginger Gibson on Benghazi — that looks right.
Oh, but right there on the left, there’s a byline for Matthew Shay.
Who’s that? He’s a guy with the National Retail Federation, and this is what he’s saying on the homepage of Politico:
[L]ast month, the National Retail Federation launched This Is Retail, a campaign to show the world that retail extends far beyond the sales floor. We want people to know a career in retail is, in fact, a career — not just a job. We want them to know the ways retailers are bringing people together and contributing to communities. And we want them to see how retailers are driving innovation in mind-blowing ways to meet customer needs and make shopping an easy and personalized experience.
The fact that this is not regular Politico content is no secret: The site uses a bold red banner that reads, “SPONSOR-GENERATED CONTENT.” It’s all-caps, a trick with which POLITICO is quite familiar. The banner graces not only the homepage box, but the story page as well. If average Politico readers — somehow — miss that banner, surely Shay’s un-journalistic prose will tip them off that this is not traditional Politico news coverage.
When asked whether this was Politico’s virgin foray into sponsored content — at least on the homepage — Executive Editor Jim VandeHei confirmed that it was. The treatment strikes a fine balance between protecting readers and promoting products. The Erik Wemple Blog hopes that Politico bags millions upon millions of dollars off the deal.
[The Washington Post also includes sponsored content on its homepage occasionally, with a visual presentation similar to Politico's.]