Marie Claire Podcast Caught In Ethical Controversy

Apr 28th, 2007 | By | Category: Corporate Podcasts, Internet TV, Making Money with Podcasts, Video, Video Podcasts

Marie ClaireMagazine publisher Marie Claire’s podcast series, The Masthead With Marie Claire, is getting the magazine attention….but for the wrong reasons. The podcast is raising questions about the blurring of advertising and editorial content in podcasts.

The video podcasts, which are produced in collaboration with, are sponsored by Unilever and Diesel. The video podcasts feature prominent product placement of Unilever beauty products.

Product placements have included segments that discuss using Degree deodorant, Dove self-tanner and editor in chief Joanna Coles discussing Dove skin products. The most recent episode featured the Diesel New York fashion show.

While podcasting and other Internet media are new technologies, the need for transparency when content is actually “advertainment” is not. The American Society of Magazine Editors has a set of Best Practices for Digital Media, which state that “Special advertising or ‘advertorial’ features should be labelled as such.”

“The principle is exactly the same,” said American Society of Magazine Editors board member Jacob Weisberg. “Readers and users have to know what is advertising and what is editorial on the Web, as in print,” he said.

“It’s got to be separate,” added Weisberg. “[Advertising] can’t include the editors and shouldn’t be produced by the editors.”

No Responses to “Marie Claire Podcast Caught In Ethical Controversy”

  1. Murphy says:

    I’ll be intrigued to hear Adam Curry’s reaction/take on this.

    If he chooses to comment, I expect he’ll defend the practice … I’m curious to hear *how* he’ll defend it.

    Former Print Journalist

  2. It’s a stupid move on the part of Marie Claire to have their editorial content skewed completely toward their sponsors’ products.

    But, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, anyone who has gone to the trouble of listening to the podcast will have heard who the sponsor is — and will put two and two together when they hear “exciting” segments about their sponsors’ products.

    Media consumers are smart enough to figure out when a podcast’s feature story is just a thinly veiled advertisement. Listeners may be interested enough to listen to it once, but, unless that Dove skin care feature or Diesel fashion story is really, really compelling, they won’t be back to listen a second or subsequent time.

    Corporate podcasters who underestimate the intelligence and savvy of their target audience are going to get bitten in the patootie for trying to pass off commercials as legitimate “content.”

  3. Eric says:

    Publisher, remember the “news reports” that were supplied by HUD to TV stations, which then aired them as if they were produced by themselves? Or the columnists paid behind closed doors by the current administration to push their policy agenda? No, we can’t count on just the consumer to recognize this dodgy practice. Professional standards will not hamper companies from monetizing podcasts, and will strengthen the position of the consumer.

    Advertising disguised as editorial content can be extremely well hidden, or very clumsy. This sort of reminds of the debacle that PodShow put together last year. Anyone remember “Heather and Jonelle?” I have not watched “The Masthead” show yet, but I’m tempted see what they’re doing.


  4. info says:


    Good points – this is something that the blogging and podcasting world seems to be sensitive to, though, more so than traditional media. I don’t know if this will be true as more and more mainstream companies are podcasting, but the blogosphere likes to jump all over bloggers that sell out.

    Remember how much heat WordPress author Matt Mullenweg got when people found out that he was using the WordPress domain to do search engine spamming?

  5. Eric says:

    Actually, not being a WordPress users, or much of a blog user, I missed that about the WordPress domain spamming! Yikes!

    I do think product placement and/or endorsements will be part of the future of monetizing podcasts, and the ethical producers will add a disclaimer, but I do expect that there will be a lot of abuse. That’s why if we as consumers and producers don’t immediately hold organizations like Marie Claire (who is a voluntary member of the ASME) to the standards they themselves have pledged to uphold, then how can we hope to expect independent bloggers and podcasters to maintain some semblance of ethical standards?

    (A disclaimer of my own: I produce an independent podcast that “competes” in the same iTunes category as the Masthead)


  6. Tim Bourquin says:

    This issue was first discussed at length on the ( Podcast.

  7. […] The Marie Claire video podcast is designed to feature celebrity interviews, beauty and fashion talks, and some behind the scenes events of Marie Claire Magazine, But the episodes of¬† the said video podcast is said to be featuring prominent product placement of their sponsor which is heavily done by the magazine‚Äôs editors; hence has raised questions about the blurring of advertising and editorial content in podcasts. […]

  8. Leigh Hanlon says:

    I don’t see any mention of how podcast listeners and viewers feel about this product placement — but I’ll bet they don’t care.

  9. Eric says:

    Maybe, maybe not, Leigh. That may all depend on whether or not The Masthead fosters a relationship with their audience. I know that our audience can be quite vocal about changes or things we do on our podcast. But they’re also pretty loyal and willing to forgive the occasional misstep. If Marie Claire has any kind of relationship with their base, then I suspect this will not be much of an issue for the audience, but could get them into trouble with the trade organization they belong to. And if they don’t have a relationship with their audience, and it’s as consistently blatant as some of what I’ve now seen, then their audience may just tune out due to sheer aggravation.


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