Thomas Venker

Has a few problems with sponsored content

Today’s column is brought to you by, the word „sponsored“. Ouch.
Well, you’re probably well-acquainted with it as it appears above many postings in your Facebook timeline, right? This is of course social media’s take on what the world of print has known for years as an “advertorial” – a bit of brand fluffery masquerading as editorial by using the same typeface and layout. Articles about opportunities to invest in far-off countries, a happy world of upbeat possibility nestling next to the articles about crime, war and other global ghastliness.

But if you take a closer look at the „sponsored“ stuff in your social media timeline you don’t see much brand stuff, instead the majority seems to come from your beloved record labels, artists and magazines. In other (moral) words: this is “clean content”, courtesy of the good guys. The „sponsored“ is only there as those friendly folks had to front up some cash to reach more people with their postings. And it’s also a none-too-subtle reminder that Facebook and its other social media siblings steer content to you via commercial algorithms – which means if you aren’t paying, you definitely aren’t reaching as far as these guys.

“Who cares?” you might ask, as you scroll down the endless feed of wonders. But these days Facebook has quietly become the major gatekeeper for so much of the web’s content, social media is how almost everyone that comes to your own site with get there. We at Kaput could let you into a few trade secrets here, for as a pretty new media player we’re still in the process of forging our die-hard reader crowd so like most publishers we rely on Facebook and the other social media sites to bring people in. We’re not complaining but we’ve spotted that in the wholly digital world, the real life of our postings is somehow always connected by this umbilical cord to the all-seeing Mother Zuckerberg.

So surely our next logical step, stump up the cash and get our own little “Sponsored” label on everything, right? Well, first off we’re not yet actually drowning in that kind of money, and second, this is so not the Kaput style (not for nothing are we titled broken and insolvent ;-). Our dilemma of stubborness and impoverishment leads then to this slightly meandering editorial. Why does this word “sponsored” give me a little discomfort, even when it appears alongside postings by likeable labels, artists etc.? Why does it bring out the resentful punk in me?

Full disclosure, yes this feels a bit stupid, because in magazines I am one of those who like the ads, and it’s not like magazines aren’t commercially minded. And then, even in the artificial intelligence driven world of social media algorithims these “sponsored” moments still manage to get lost, and then whose money has been wasted? The artists’? The labels’?

So, I ask myself: is this my own little tortured psycho-drama, a pointless moral dilemma? Or are there more people out there who have their problems with this little word “sponsored” and what it means for how we learn now about the things we love?






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Thomas Venker & Linus Volkmann
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