ASME Guidelines for Editors and Publishers
Revised January 2011
The ASME Guidelines for Editors and Publishers codify longstanding practices governing the relationship between editorial and advertising content. The guidelines ensure that practices commonly used by editors and publishers to prevent or resolve editorial-advertising conflicts are clearly understood and consistently applied throughout the consumer-magazine industry.
In a rapidly changing media environment, no set of rules can anticipate every issue, but these are the basic principles behind the ASME Guidelines for Editors and Publishers:
- Every reader is entitled to fair and accurate news and information
- The value of magazines to advertisers depends on reader trust
- The difference between editorial content and marketing messages must be transparent
- Editorial integrity must not be compromised by advertiser influence
ASME believes that adhering to these principles benefits every magazine stakeholder: readers, editors, publishers and advertisers. Magazines found to violate the guidelines may be sanctioned by ASME; repeated violations of the guidelines may lead to disqualification from the National Magazine Awards.
BEST PRACTICES FOR PRINT MAGAZINES
The members of ASME seek to encourage the creative use of print magazines by marketers. By protecting editorial integrity, the guidelines promote advertising effectiveness.
The guidelines were last updated in 2005; the new guidelines answer some of the questions most frequently asked by ASME members. Significant revisions of the guidelines are underlined. But the guidelines can still be summarized in one sentence: The reader should always be able to tell the difference between edit and ads.
1. Advertising and the Cover
a. The cover is the editor and publisher’s brand statement. Advertising on the coverincreases the likelihood of editorial-advertising conflicts. The cover and spine should not be used to advertise products other than the magazine itself.
b. False covers and cover flaps may be used for advertising subject to these conditions:
i. the magazine logo is not used to suggest editorial endorsement (the logo may be used on false covers and cover flaps to identify the publication)
ii. editorial content and graphic design are not integrated with advertising
iii. false covers and cover flaps do not use cover lines and graphic-design elements similar to those used by the magazine itself
False covers and the front side of cover flaps used for advertising should always be labeled as advertising. See When to Label Advertising, Section 4, for more information
c. To prevent the appearance of editorial endorsement, cover stickers should not be used to advertise products.
2. Magazine and Advertiser Logos
a. Magazine logos may be used on pages promoting the magazine, its products and its marketing partnerships, including on the cover of a sponsored section, but cannot be used on the cover or other pages of an advertising section (“advertorial”). See Sponsorships, Section 6, and Advertising Sections (“Advertorials”), Section 8.
b. Magazine logos should not be used on advertising in the magazine to suggest editorial endorsement unless the advertised product or service has received an editorial award.
c. Advertiser logos should not appear on editorial pages except in an editorial context; that is, editorial coverage of a company and its products and trademarks.
3. Magazine and Advertiser Graphic Design
a. Advertisements should not imitate the graphic design of the magazine in which they appear; advertisements should not use type fonts, graphic elements or color treatments that would lead the reader to mistake advertising for editorial.
b. Advertisements that could be mistaken for editorial content, even if they do not mimic the graphic design of the magazine in which they appear, should be labeled as advertising. See When to Label Advertising, Section 4.
4. When to Label Advertising
Editors and publishers should be aware that under some circumstances, labeling advertising is required by federal law. USPS Domestic Mail Manual 707.3.6.4 (Marking of Paid Reading Matter) states: "Under 18 USC 1734, if a valuable consideration is paid, accepted, or promised for the publication of any editorial or other reading matter in a Periodicals publication, that matter must be plainly marked 'advertisement.'"
The ASME Guidelines also require the following:
a. Advertisements that could be mistaken for editorial content should be labeled, even if the advertisement does not resemble the magazine in which it appears. See Advertising Sections (“Advertorials”), Section 8.
b. Advertisements that appear on false covers and the front side of cover flaps, as editorial-looking pages and in unusual configurations should always be labeled.
c. "Advertisement," "Advertising" and "Special Advertising Section" are standard labels. To ensure compliance with DMM 707.3.6.4, editors and publishers are advised to consult with distribution managers before using "Promotion" to label advertising.
d. To prevent the appearance of editorial participation, “Advertorial” should not be used as a label.
e. Labels should appear horizontally at the top of the page in readable type at least comparable in size and weight with body type.
f. Labels should not be hidden or disguised.
5. Advertising Adjacencies
a. Editors and publishers should avoid positioning advertisements near editorial pages that discuss or show the same or similar products sold by the advertiser (a rule of thumb used by many magazines is, the reader must turn the page at least twice between related ad and edit).
b. Editors and publishers should also avoid the following:
i. positioning advertisements for products and services endorsed by or associated with public figures near editorial content concerning those public figures
ii. positioning advertisements for motion pictures, television programs, recordings and similar works near editorial content concerning participants in those works
a. Sponsorships of special issues, editorial inserts, onserts and outserts and special sections and contests are acceptable under the guidelines.
b. Sponsorships of out-of-book events such as award shows, conferences and trade shows are acceptable under the guidelines.
c. Covers of sponsored sections should be labeled as advertising when they include sponsor logos; advertising content of sponsored sections and related promotions elsewhere in the magazine should be labeled as advertising. See When to Label Advertising, Section 4.
d. Sponsorships may be acknowledged in editorial content, but products or services associated with sponsors or their business partners should not be promoted or endorsed in editorial content.
e. Sponsors should not exercise editorial direction; editorial content should not be shown to sponsors in advance of publication.
f. To prevent editorial-advertising conflicts, sponsorships of regularly published editorial sections, departments and features should not be accepted.
7. Single-Advertiser Issues
a. Single-advertiser issues are acceptable under the guidelines but should be explained to readers in an editor’s letter or publisher’s note published in the same issue.
b. Single-advertiser issues are subject to the relevant guidelines for sponsored content in When to Label Advertising, Section 4, and Sponsorships, Section 6.
8. Advertising Sections (“Advertorials”)
a. Advertising sections (“advertorials”) are not editorial content, and every page of such sections should be labeled. See Section 4, When to Label Advertising.
b. The logo of the magazine should not appear on the cover or any other page of an advertising section.
9. Editorial Participation in Advertising
a. Editorial staff and frequent contributors should not appear in, or participate in the creation or production of, advertising that appears in their own magazine.
b. Publications engaged in or associated with the manufacturing or marketing of branded products and services should ensure that advertisements or promotions for their own products and services cannot be mistaken for editorial content.
10. Product Placement and Integration
a. Publishers should not accept payment from advertisers to place or promote products in editorial content.
b. Editors should not create content, place content near advertisements, promote products or cover a public figure associated with an advertised product in exchange for advertising.
See also When to Label Advertising, Section 4.
11. Invasive or Interruptive Advertising
a. The members of ASME oppose advertising that disrupts editorial; the acceptance of advertising that compromises the reader experience, including advertising that uses editorial-page white space, should be subject to editorial approval.
b. Unusual advertising configurations and positions violate the guidelines if the distinction between editorial and advertising is not transparent.
12. Advertiser Review
a. Magazine covers, tables of contents, articles, photographs, page layouts and other editorial matter should not be submitted for advertiser review.
b. To prevent the appearance of advertiser review, advertisements should not directly refer to editorial content, including specific articles or page numbers.
BEST PRACTICES FOR DIGITAL MEDIA
The ASME guidelines protect the editorial integrity of magazine content published on digital platforms and ensure its value to users and advertisers. Users will not return to a website or use an app they suspect lacks credibility; those who do will be less inclined to buy the products advertised there.
The following best practices address some of the questions most frequently asked by ASME members. But like the guidelines for print magazines, the best practices for digital media can be summarized in one sentence: Users should always be able to tell whose content they’re looking at.
D1. When to Label Advertising
a. Marketing messages should be visually separated from editorial content—by rules, for example, or background colors—and easily identifiable as advertising.
b. Advertisements placed above the navigation bar and on the right rail usually do not need to be labeled as advertising. Advertisements placed elsewhere on the page, especially those that interrupt editorial space, should always be labeled as advertising.
c. Advertiser-provided content should be clearly labeled as advertising, and the source of the content and the affiliation of the authors should be clearly acknowledged. Examples of such content include sponsored links, interactive tools, games and “thought leadership” columns.
d. “Sponsored By” and “Brought to You By” are standard labels for editorial content supported by a single advertiser and should not be used for advertiser-provided content.
e. “Powered By” should be used only for providers of editorial content or technological features, as should “Partner” when used in consumer-facing content. These terms should not be used for advertisers or sponsors.
f. “Advertorial” should not be used as a label for a microsite (a microsite is a content presentation ranging from a small website to a simple landing page that is created by or for a single advertiser or sponsor).
D2. Editorial Participation in Advertising Content
a. Editorial staff and frequent contributors should not participate in the creation or production of advertising content that may appear on a website that employs them.
b. Bloggers should not participate in the creation of advertising content that may appear on any site on which their blog appears.
D3. Product Placement and Integration
a. Websites should not accept payment from advertisers to place or promote products in editorial content.
b. Websites should not promote products or cover a person associated with an advertised product in exchange for advertising.
D4. Paid Links
a. Paid or sponsored links may be embedded in editorial content as long as they are identified as such with a distinct label or design.
b. Collections of paid links should be visually distinct from editorial sidebars. If the unit contains links from multiple sources, the name of the sponsor or the destination URL should be readily apparent for each link.
D5. Sponsored Microsites
a. Sponsored microsites should be visually distinct from the main website and should not share key site design elements, such as the masthead or navigation bar, with the main site.
b. Microsite sponsors should be clearly identified.
c. The relationship with the main website should be acknowledged. “A [Sponsor Name] microsite presented by [Editorial Website Name]” is a standard way to label microsites.
d. Design and engineering staff may build microsites for advertisers or sponsors, but editorial staff and frequent contributors should not contribute original content. Sponsored microsites may repurpose editorial content from the main website as long as editorial content is clearly distinguished from advertiser-provided content.
D6. Interruptive or Unusual Advertising
a. The acceptance of advertising that obscures editorial content or disrupts the user experience should be subject to editorial approval.
b. Interruptive advertisements should have a prominent “Skip” or “Close” button.
c. It is recommended that interruptive advertisements should last no more than 10 seconds. It is also recommended that video pre-roll should last no more than 15 seconds.
d. Advertisements in unusual configurations and positions should always be labeled as advertising. The difference between editorial and advertising should always be readily apparent.
D7. E-commerce Relationships
a. E-commerce relationships must be self-evident or clearly disclosed on any page on which e-commerce options appear adjacent to related editorial content.
b. E-commerce partners should not receive preferential treatment in search results, shopping recommendations, price comparisons and similar applications that may be perceived as editorial content
c. Sponsored search results may be displayed adjacent to editorial content as long as they are clearly labeled as advertising.
D8. Blogs and Social Media
“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” published by the Federal Trade Commission, includes regulations affecting blogs and bloggers. Editors and publishers may wish to review these regulations before using content generated by independent bloggers. The ASME guidelines also require or recommend the following for blogs and social media:
a. The same rules that govern other content on the site apply to content created by bloggers. Marketing messages in blogs should not be integrated with editorial content.
b. Bloggers should disclose in their blogs any commercial relationship they have with an advertiser or marketer mentioned in any content they create.
c. Editorial social media are intended for editorial promotion and community activities only. Editorial staff and frequent contributors should not cover subjects or endorse products in social media in exchange for advertising.
D9. Tablet Media
Mobile versions of magazine content designed for tablets (including the iPad and Android tablets) should adhere to the same general guidelines that govern print magazines and magazine websites. The chief goal is transparency: Users should be able to distinguish easily between content produced by editors and content delivered on behalf of advertisers.
The ASME guidelines also require or recommend the following for tablet media:
a. Because many apps do not display adjacent pages, it is especially important that advertisements should not use typefaces, design elements and color schemes similar to those used on editorial pages. Users may otherwise mistake advertising for editorial.
b. Advertisements should not use on-page navigational controls that resemble those used for editorial content. For example, if a magazine uses a uniquely designed interface to control a slide show, an advertisement that includes a slides show should use a different control interface.
c. Advertisements that take over the user interface should include a prominent “Skip” or “Close” control.
d. To ensure that interactive advertisements meet the technical standards of the magazine, editorial staff must receive advertising materials in advance to allow for quality assurance review.
For further information about common practices in digital media, editors and publishers may wish to consult Microsoft Advertising’s Editorial Guidelines and the Consumer Best Practices of the Mobile Media Association.
WHY ASME? WHY GUIDELINES?
Founded in 1963, the American Society of Magazine Editors is the principal organization for magazine journalists in the United States. The members of ASME include the editorial leaders of most major consumer and business magazines published in print and online. ASME is best known for sponsoring the National Magazine Awards in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
ASME has published the Guidelines for Editors and Publishers as a service to its members since 1982, articulating on their behalf principles and practices widely used both in print and online. The guidelines reflect the unwavering view of the 700 members of ASME that editorial independence and clear distinctions between editorial content and marketing messages are in the best interests of publishers and advertisers as well as readers and users.
Violations and Sanctions
The guidelines are intended to enhance the value of magazines for readers and advertisers. Violations of the guidelines not only compromise the editorial integrity and commercial value of the magazines in which the violations appear but threaten those of other publications as well. ASME monitors publications edited by members as well as nonmembers for violations; readers and publishers also frequently notify ASME of apparent violations.
The Guidelines Committee of the ASME Board of Directors meets regularly to review possible violations; major issues are referred to the full board. Members of ASME are invited to attend committee and board meetings to discuss violations. Editors and publishers of magazines found to be in violation of the guidelines are notified in writing. ASME does not publicly comment on the business and editorial practices of members unless the issue is a matter of public debate or of widespread concern to editors and publishers. Repeated and willful violations of the guidelines will, however, lead to public sanction and disqualification from the National Magazine Awards.
Comments and Questions
ASME advises members and others on the interpretation and application of the guidelines. Editors, publishers and advertisers are encouraged to call or write the following staff members:
You may also wish to e-mail comments and questions to the following ASME board members at email@example.com:
Editor in Chief, BNET
Chair, ASME Guidelines Committee