ASME Guidelines for Editors and Publishers
Updated April 2014
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
The following best practices answer some of the questions most frequently asked by editors and publishers but can be easily summarized in one sentence: Media consumers should always be able to distinguish between content produced by journalists and content delivered on behalf of advertisers.
1. Don't Print Ads on Covers
a. The cover is the editor and publisher’s brand statement. Advertisements should not be printed directly on the cover or spine.
b. Advertisements printed on false covers or cover flaps should not be integrated with editorial content and should not use cover lines similar to those used by the magazine.
c. Advertisements printed on false covers and cover flaps should be labeled as advertising. See “Label Ads That Look Like Edit,” section 4, for directions.
3. Don't Allow Ads to Imitate Edit
a. Advertisements should not imitate the design of the magazine in which they appear and should not use type fonts or graphics associated with the magazine.
b. The logo of the magazine should not be used on in-book advertising except for promotional pages published by and for the magazine, multi-advertiser sections such as classified listings and gift guides and advertisements for products that have received editorial awards or praise.
4. Label Ads That Look Like Edit
a. The following kinds of advertisements should always be labeled as advertising:
i. advertisements on false covers and cover flaps
ii. advertisements that could be mistaken for editorial content, including advertising sections ("advertorials")
iii. promotional pages published by and for the magazine and multi-advertiser sections such as classified listings and gift guides
5. Explain Sponsored Sections to Readers
6. Don't Accept Sponsorships for Regular Edit
Sponsorships of tables of content, mastheads, editors’ letters, columns and other front- and back-of-the-book departments as well as news and feature stories should not be accepted.
7. Avoid Adjacencies That Suggest Conflict of Interest
a. Advertisements should not be positioned adjacent to or near editorial pages that discuss or show the same or similar branded products (a rule of thumb used by many magazines is that the reader must turn the page at least twice between related edit and ads).
b. Advertisements for products endorsed by or associated with public figures, including but not limited to motion pictures and television programs, should not be positioned near editorial content concerning those public figures.
8. Don't Accept Product Placement
a. Products or persons should not be “placed” or promoted in editorial content in exchange for payment of any kind.
b. Advertisements should not be integrated with editorial content. Editorial content and advertisements should not refer, or “talk,” to each another. Editorial content should not be designed around unusual or invasive advertising units or point readers to them.
9. Don't Ask Editors to Write Ads
a. The participation of editorial staff in the creation of advertising is a conflict of interest and should be avoided.
b. Editorial contributors should not participate in the creation of advertising if their work would appear to be an endorsement by the magazine of the advertised product.
10. Don't Allow Advertisers to Approve Edit
Magazine covers, tables of content, articles, photographs, page layouts and other editorial matter should not be submitted to advertisers for review or approval.
BEST PRACTICES FOR DIGITAL MEDIA
The following best practices apply to websites, tablets, smartphones and social media. Digital media should follow the print best practices that generally apply to the practice of journalism, specifically section 8, “Don't Accept Product Placement”; section 9, “Don't Ask Editors to Write Ads”; and section 10, “Don't Allow Advertisers to Approve Edit.” Editors and publishers should also review the FTC regulations concerning blogs and bloggers published in Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
D1. Separate Ads From Edit
D2. Label Native Advertising
a. Marketer-provided content, including native advertising, should be prominently labeled as advertising, and the source of such content and the affiliation of the authors should be clearly acknowledged. The term “Sponsor Content,” already in use on some websites, can be used to label native advertising.
b. Native advertising should include a prominent statement or “What’s This?” rollover at the top of the advertising unit explaining that the content has been created by a marketer and that the marketer has paid for its publication.
c. Native advertising should not use type fonts and graphics resembling those used for editorial content and should be visually separated from editorial content.
D3. Differentiate Sponsored Microsites From Edit Sites
a. Sponsored microsites should be visually distinct from the main website and should not share design elements such as the masthead or the navigation bar with the main site.
b. Microsite sponsors should be clearly identified and the relationship with the main website should be acknowledged. “A [Sponsor Name] microsite presented by [Editorial Website Name]” is a standard label for microsites.
c. Editorial staff should not contribute original content to sponsored microsites, and editorial content repurposed from the main site should be clearly distinguished from marketer-provided content.
For further information about standards and practices in digital media, editors and publishers may wish to consult: Editorial Guidelines for Bing Ads, Publishing on Google Play, Consumer Best Practices of the Mobile Media Association and Social Media Guidelines for AP Employees as well as .com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising, published by the FTC.