If you were asleep or god forbid, not on social media yesterday, you might have missed a whopper of a story. The Atlantic posted an advertorial on Scientology. Paid for, obviously, by The Church of Scientology. And then apologized and took it down.
Why did they apologize, you ask?
Because The Atlantic's readers didn't realize it was an advertorial, or assumed the Atlantic has sold out. Which means one of two things. The intelligence level of the people looking at the ad which clearly states right above the headline Sponsored Content next to a link which also reads What's this? for further information, wasn't enough of a clue that this was an ad. The second option is that the people doing the retweeting never actually saw the ad but added their two cents anyway because who reads beyond the headline?
I'm guessing it's mostly the latter group, because really, how on earth could regular readers of The Atlantic think they'd be pro-Scientology? That's a bit like boycotting youtube because of the sponsored "I'm a Mormon," videos.
Would it have helped if they had made the font size larger on the legalese? Perhaps it should have flashed. Oh, I know! Maybe they should have had some audio like the "Congratulations, you've won!" banners. "Congratulations. you're reading an advertorial paid for by Scientologists."
If this had been placed in the print version of the magazine, we wouldn't be having this discussion. No seriously. We wouldn't. Because you would have realized, it's an advertorial. I can only assume people are having trouble distinguishing between paid for content and sponsored content online unless of course it is of the Lower My Bills Dancing Aliens variety. Y'all do know that's an ad, right?
Either way, the commotion was enough for The Atlantic to issue an apology and yank the ad after barely being up one day. The apology above is quite rambling for such an erudite magazine. Because it's kind of hard to be direct without offending someone. Had they been honest it would have read more like" sorry for making it seem we're Pro-Scientology." Because the snark reactions were hardcore and that's what it was really about. But I guess they didn't want to offend David Miscavige and his ilk. Can't blame them, since presumably they were paid a tidy sum for running it.
An article in the Washington Post points out that sponsored ads make up nearly 60% of the Atlantic's revenue haul. Wonder if they had to give the Scientologists their money back?
News flash, people! The Atlantic makes money running ads. The majority are sponsored. They don't care where the money comes from.