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Comment: All the news that's fit to purchase. (Score 5, Interesting) 146

by Dylan Thomas (#11715651) Attached to: New York Times Buys About.com for $410 Million

Now, let me start with the disclaimer: there's nothing wrong with it. I'm a firm believer in good, old-fashioned capitalism and what any person or corporation wishes to risk his hard-earned capital on is entirely his decision. Al the best and I hope they make a bundle.

Having said that, is there still a line between news and marketing?

I remember, during the eighties, when a whole bunch of so-called "news magazine" programs, from Entertainment Tonight to First Edition and other similar shows came under fire because while pretending to be news programs, they were largely just marketing venues for the networks. However, the public adapted, and most people know how to distinguish between real news and slick-and-glossy "infotainment" (another word that came out of the eighties).

Nonetheless, going all the way back to Dateline NBC's exploding trucks (and I've spoken extensively to one of the producers about this issue, so let me also disclaim that no one who worked on that story still works for the show), I wonder if news and sales haven't become, well, the same process.

Sure, the bottom line is the bottom line. Newspapers exist to sell newspapers. That they report news is merely the product; the goal is to show a profit. If reporting news ceases to be a profitable product, newspapers will begin to... sell vacations on the Internet, perhaps?

My same favorite, Dateline NBC, ran a "two hour special" last year on Donald Trump. That special happened to coincide with his program The Apprentice. Were they reporting news, or hyping a television show? A producer told me, "Donald Trump is news. That he's affiliating himself with a television program is newsworthy. And interdepartamental hype is just part of the business."

So, what's the synergy? NYT runs a story on disaster recovery efforts in Asia. A sidebar on how some lovely small-town tourist attraction has already got back on its feet, and is open for visitors. Find out more at about.com, where several tourist agency links are ready to take your order. This, I suppose, is less tacky than the NYT simply running the agency ads alongside the article.

Where exactly is that line between news and marketing?

Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television. - David Letterman

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