The Huffington Post UK has launched a new 'Inspiration' section on its site which will enable brands "to communicate directly with prospective consumers via video, blogs and social media," announced a press release from AOL.
Its first focus is a cross-platform package in conjunction with other AOL properties to promote Iceland as a year-round tourist destination. As the press release says, the 'Inspired by Iceland' campaign, sponsored by Promote Iceland and Iceland's government, is "the first Europe- wide marketing campaign that fully integrates a comprehensive suite of AOL advertising products, content and platforms."
There are other posts on the page that are unrelated to the Iceland effort, and HuffPost UK editor-in-chief Carla Buzasi said that the Inspiration section is dedicated to "all things inspirational." Food will be a theme over the next few days, then careers and lifestyle, with participation from both HuffPo's journalists and bloggers.
"Inspired by Iceland will engage prospective consumers with AOL's full suite of creative solutions and innovative platforms," said Noel Penzer, Managing Director UK & Vice President, International at the Huffington Post, in the press release. "Working hand-in-hand with the client and agencies from the outset, we've been able to push the envelope in our creative efforts in delivering a campaign that's groundbreaking and sure to make an impact with our users."
The Huffington Post has used advertorial content for some time in the US, with blog posts from companies such as IBM, GE or Starwood. The publication has defended this, arguing that the sponsored content is clearly distinguishable from pure editorial content. On the new UK page, sponsored content is definitely all labeled, but the overall appearance of the page is editorial.
Whether or not 'advertorial' content can be used without compromising a publication's editorial integrity has been debated at length by industry bodies and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic.
The advantage to advertisers in producing this sort of content for a site like the Huffington Post is the 'articles' will be promoted through HuffPost's social media network as all other content is, and it brings the advertiser into the discussion on the site. Therefore, they are prepared to pay more for it and at a time when news publications are struggling to find digital business models, this is appealing.
If the content is interesting to readers and actually provides useful information, then as long as it is clearly labeled (so that anyone even skimming the piece will realize), it is arguably acceptable to publish it. However, there is always a risk that it will alienate readers and damage the credibility of a journalistic publication.
Source: Huffington Post press release, Huffington Post