For readers, one good thing about Aviation International News and its sister publications is our independence. We’re not owned by a company that manufactures or operates aircraft, nor are we beholden to any trade association. Just as important, we don’t let advertisers influence our coverage. We need them, of course, to pay the bills and make a profit. But we don’t need any one of them so much that we let it keep us from reporting what readers deserve to know.
It’s not that way at every magazine. The wall between advertising and editorial is strong at some publications, weak at others and nonexistent at still others.
At one end of the spectrum are the magazines that maintain a solid division between advertising and editorial. Then there are publications that will modify or kill articles that might upset advertisers. There are even periodicals where buying ad space entitles you to a second ad–one that’s disguised to look like editorial, ostensibly to give it added credibility.
I’m happy to report that we’re in the group that has erected a high and sturdy wall between editorial and advertising. Companies buy space in our magazines not to curry editorial favor but simply to reach the audience we deliver. And while we in editorial talk to our sales staff and happily receive suggestions from them (or from advertisers or anyone else, for that matter), nobody tells our editorial department what to cover–or not cover.
One interesting thing about all this is that it is not only the honest way to operate and good for readers; it also makes excellent business sense for us–and for the companies that buy space in our magazines. An advertiser might conceivably get some short-term benefit from a puff piece disguised as editorial or from a publication that mentions it only in positive ways. But you can’t fool readers for long. Over time, a magazine with advertiser-influenced editorial will lose whatever credibility and shot at greatness it may have had. It might continue publishing for years without growing substantially–and without really serving its readers or its advertisers. Often, though, those readers will drift away as they begin to sense that they can’t rely on the publication. Next to disappear will be the advertisers–and then the magazine itself.