Over on the Horses for Sources Blog, Phil Fersht has penned a commentary, Fooled by Forbes’ fantasy fiction?, which Supply Chain Matters would like to also echo.  In his commentary, Phil calls attention to publisher Forbes Magazine and its “BrandVoice” columns to blatantly promote various technology products from technology providers such as Oracle and SAP. Phil notes: “There is no sponsored content indication anywhere on the BrandVoice articles, not even a company logo at the top of the pieces.  Moreover, midway through last year, the column title was changed from AdVoice to BrandVoice, further blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The list of praiseworthy articles is endless, and (seemingly) very convincing to the general reader, who is being fooled into thinking they are reading real journalism.” Phil provides a couple of specific examples for readers.

The reason that this commentary resonated with us is that we also have noted these fine lines of difference among certain business and supply chain publications which feature articles that pretend to be independent journalism, but smack too much of vendor marketing language without alerting readers to a business arrangement.  In his commentary, Phil notes a source indicating that the cost of entry for Forbes AdVoice is $1 million. Once more, a reference to an AdAge Digital article also questions the effectiveness of this format in generating prospective customer leads. This author was floored by both the scope and implied arrogance of that number.  How many technology vendors have a marketing budget large enough to support a $1 million program with a single business publication? Very few.

Phil further notes: “ No, they (AdVoice) don’t promise to make their content appear independent.  They position it as another marketing channel where editorial and advertorial co-mingle and co-exist.  They are, in fact, quite proud of the hits BrandVoice articles get relative to straight editorial.  They like that blending of content.”

As bloggers, we are required by regulatory guidelines to disclose any prior business relationships that may be associated to the content of a particular blog posting.  Readers of this blog will note that whenever Supply Chain Matters posts a commentary related to a named sponsor or existing client, we include such a disclosure.  The one exception we make is in announcing a blog sponsor, where it should be clear to our readers that sponsors have a relationship to that commentary.

We hold our sponsors and clients to higher standards, meaning that independent thought leadership is far different than the latest marketing brief. Should not top-tier business and supply chain periodicals do the same?  After all, you the reader, need to be aware of what is independent vs. paid or tutored opinion.

We echo that these practices are indeed a slippery slope, one that those with big pockets believe will influence you, the reader and prospective buyer of technology products and services

Cudos to Phil Ferscht for raising such awareness and outrage.

Readers are welcomed to voice their own opinions as well.

Bob Ferrari

Founder and Executive Editor