Digiday surveyed some of the biggest – and most influential – names in the business to get a sense of how magazines are approaching the ethics of sponsored live events.
“It could appear, either to the sponsors or the people who are coming, that they’re getting some special access to the reporter,” the Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride told Lucia Moses. “Then, people think the news is for sale.”
Here’s how five publishers handle that delicate balance:
The Atlantic: For live events like the Aspen Ideas Festival, The Atlantic has a handbook that’s actually available online. Reporters are encouraged – but not required – to attend, Digiday reports, while “underwriters” can participate on panels provided “they have no economic interest in the outcome.”
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The New York Times: Editorial staff – headed up by The New York Times Magazine‘s former chief – curates the content and selects participants for programming. In other words, sponsor involvement is organic. Everything is on the record.
Fortune: The magazine’s editorial bent allows it more leeway when it comes to sponsor participation. For instance, AT&T’s chairman and CEO recently sat on the Brainstorm Tech panel, which the company sponsored.
TechCrunch: Sponsors may purchase a booth and attend networking sessions, but may not participate in programming. “Sponsors can’t buy their way on stage,” COO Ned Desmond told Digiday. In addition, after unfortunate programming decisions in the past, TechCrunch has instituted an anti-harassment policy.
The New Yorker: The New Yorker Festival – perhaps the finest example of its kind – is famously open to the public, but its panels are not open to sponsor participation.