Blurred Lines: Imaging Edge

Addendum: A general failure to properly apply post scheduling has resulted in three posts today. So enjoy!

So as you may know, print journalism is having a mid-life crisis: as print readership starts to decline, so does revenue. As a result, some magazines have been changing up their advertising game. From Buzzfeed’s native advertising to fashion magazines’ selling the goods they review, everybody’s looking to make a quick buck.

The downside: the lines are blurred between editorial and advertising content, making it harder for a reader to distinguish between the two. One could argue magazines are leveraging their readers’ trust in order to make money – knowing your readers will engage with a certain topic is a very powerful bargaining chip during advertising deals.

And the lines keep blurring. Case in point: Imaging Edge, a new magazine launched last week by Bonnier.

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Imaging Edge is a photography magazine. Put together by a hybrid team from American Photography and Pop Photo, it’s hitting the ground running with an Android-ready tablet issue and a handful of special subscriber-only events.

There’s just one catch: the whole thing is funded by a “partnership with Sony Corporation.”

As you may know, Sony is one of the biggest digital camera retailers on the planet. Suddenly, this beautiful young magazine looks very suspicious.

Do you trust a magazine produced by a retailer who isn’t concerned with bias? Would you respect a publishing company that works so closely with the corporations they’re supposed to cover? Is this not an underhanded advertising strategy?

Let’s think this out before we draw conclusions.

A partnership with a retailer suggests the possibility of biased reporting. Naturally, a publisher paying enough money to make their relationship a “partnership” isn’t going to stand for any reporting that runs contrary to the corporation’s interests. That being said, all the ads on the magazine’s website are for Sony cameras. And look at that first post in the screenshot below: not a word about an explicit focus on Sony equipment.

sfdfdfdfd“State of the art technology” made by your friends at Sony, of course. This makes me feel like I’m being fooled.

The magazine and the website are gorgeous and work perfectly.  Unfortunately, this is probably a byproduct of Sony’s funding. It’s clean and representative of a standard digital design aesthetic, with awesome Sans Serifs and great photography. Another interesting aspect is the focus on individual photographers’ work. Throughout the magazine, certain excellent photographers are labeled as “Sony Artisans of Imagery,” who are of course using Sony equipment. It’s like a micro version of the celebrity endorsement advertising strategy.

But still, I’m wooed by a pretty face. Here’s a shot of a photo gallery on the site.

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Do we even really care if our magazines blur the lines? It’s pretty obvious that broadcast media has sold it’s soul for ratings, and yet people still watch. In fact, they don’t just watch – some build their decisions around what they see.

So Imaging Edge begs some questions. Do we even care if Sony is influencing this magazine? Will anyone read it anyway? As these lines start to blur, what have we become as consumers? What have magazines become? Magazines never had the same explicit advertising/editorial split seen in newspapers.

In fact, perhaps this magazine isn’t unique in it’s relationship with retailers – maybe magazines have been in bed with retailers all along, and we’re okay with it.

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Just some food for thought.

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