Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 15, 2020

Good journalist, bad blogger? A study on the labeling of paid content in blogs and journalism

Olaf Hoffjann and Oliver Haidukiewicz
From the journal Communications


This study examines whether journalists and bloggers label paid content. In Germany, as in many other countries, advertorials have to be designated as advertising to enable the target audience to identify the promotional character of the content. This applies both to the traditional mass media and to blogs, for which advertorials provide a key source of income. To date, there have been no empirical findings on the designation practice based on a comparison of journalists and bloggers. The present study presents an online survey in Germany completed by 936 journalists and 463 bloggers in 2017. The results indicate that, in fact, bloggers do not label advertorials less frequently than journalists do: 91.6 % of bloggers and 91.7 % of journalists stated that they label paid content as advertising.


This study was funded by the Otto Brenner Stiftung.


Altmeppen, K. D. (2010). The gradual disappearance of foreign news on German television: Is there a future for global, international, world or foreign news? Journalism Studies, 11(4), 567–576.Search in Google Scholar

An, S., & Bergen, L. (2007). Advertiser pressure on daily newspapers. Journal of Advertising, 36(2), 111–121.Search in Google Scholar

Baerns, B. (2004). Separating advertising from programme content: The principle and its relevance in communications practice. Journal of Communication Management, 8(1), 101–112.Search in Google Scholar

Baerns, B., & Lamm, U. (1987). Erkennbarkeit und Beachtung redaktionell gestalteter Anzeigen. Design und Ergebnisse der ersten Umfrage zum Trennungsgrundsatz [Recognizability of and attention to editorially designed ads. Design and results of the first survey on the principle of separation]. Media Perspektiven, 3, 149–158.Search in Google Scholar

Balasubramanian, S. K. (1994). Beyond advertising and publicity: Hybrid messages and public policy issues. Journal of Advertising, 23(4), 29–46.Search in Google Scholar

Baoill, A. Ó. (2004). Conceptualizing the weblog: Understanding what it is in order to imagine what it can be. Journal of Contemporary Media Studies, 5(2), 1–8.Search in Google Scholar

Borchers, N. S. (2016). Crossing the borders. A theory of hybrid advertising formats. In J. F. Hamilton, R. Bodle & E. Korin (Eds.), Explorations in critical studies of advertising (pp. 195–207). New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Brüggemann, M., Humprecht, E., Kleis Nielsen, R., Karppinen, K., Cornia, A., & Esser, F. (2016). Framing the newspaper crisis: How debates on the state of the press are shaped in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom and United States. Journalism Studies, 17(5), 533–551.Search in Google Scholar

Cameron, G. T., Ju-Pak, K. H., & Kim, B. H. (1996). Advertorials in magazines: Current use and compliance with industry guidelines. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 73(3), 722–733.Search in Google Scholar

Direktorenkonferenz der Landesmedienanstalten (2016). Antworten auf Werbefragen in sozialen Medien [Responses to questions of advertising in social media]. Berlin.Search in Google Scholar

Earl, S., & Waddington, S. (2012). Brand anarchy: Managing corporate reputation. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.Search in Google Scholar

Eckman, A., & Lindlof, T. (2003). Negotiating the gray lines: An ethnographic case study of organizational conflict between advertorials and news. Journalism Studies, 4(1), 65–77.Search in Google Scholar

Eilders, C., Geißler, S., Hallermayer, M., Noghero, M., & Schnurr, J. M. (2010). Zivilgesellschaftliche Konstruktionen politischer Realität. Eine vergleichende Analyse zu Themen und Nachrichtenfaktoren in politischen Weblogs und professionellem Journalismus [Civil society constructions of political reality. A comparative analysis of topics and news values in political weblogs and professional journalism]. M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 58(1), 63–82.Search in Google Scholar

Engesser, S. (2013). Die Qualität des Partizipativen Journalismus im Web. Bausteine für ein integratives theoretisches Konzept und eine explanative empirische Analyse [The quality of participative journalism on the web. Components for an integrative theoretic concept and an explanative empirical analysis]. Wiesbaden: SpringerVS.Search in Google Scholar

Fassihi, F. F. (2008). Werbebotschaften aus der Redaktion?: Journalismus im Spannungsfeld zwischen Instrumentalisierung und Informationsauftrag [Advertising messages from the editor? Journalism between instrumentalization and the duty to inform]. Konstanz: UVK.Search in Google Scholar

Feldschow, M. (2003). Zur Relevanz des Grundsatzes der Trennung von Redaktionellem und Anzeigen in den Redaktionen der Publizistischen Einheiten Deutschlands [On the relevance of the principle of separating editorial content from advertisements in German news rooms]. Berlin: Master thesis.Search in Google Scholar

Fleckney, C. (2017). Pay to play: Are blogger relations damaging a fundamental aspect of PR practice? Journal of Promotional Communications, 5(1), 16–22.Search in Google Scholar

Franklin, B. (2014). The future of journalism: In an age of digital media and economic uncertainty. Journalism Studies, 15(5), 481–499.Search in Google Scholar

Herbst, L., & Kweton, S. (2012). Presse im Wandel. Eine Befragung österreichischer Printjournalistinnen und -journalisten zu den Auswirkungen der Dotcomkrise und der Finanzmarktkrise [The changing press. A survey of Austrian print journalists on the effects of the dotcom and the financial crises]. In S. Gadringer, S. Kweton, J. Trappel & T. Vieth (Eds.), Journalismus und Werbung: kommerzielle Grenzen der redaktionellen Autonomie (pp. 145–166). Wiesbaden: Springer-Verlag.Search in Google Scholar

Jackson, D., & Moloney, K. (2016). Inside churnalism: PR, journalism and power relationships in flux. Journalism Studies, 17(6), 763–780.Search in Google Scholar

King, M. F., & Bruner, G. C. (2000). Social desirability bias: A neglected aspect of validity testing. Psychology & Marketing, 17(2), 79–103.Search in Google Scholar

Lahav, T., & Zimand-Sheiner, D. (2016). Public relations and the practice of paid content: Practical, theoretical propositions and ethical implications. Public Relations Review, 42(3), 395–401.Search in Google Scholar

Meinen, D., & Gerecke, M. (2018). Kennzeichnung und Transparenz in der Zusammenarbeit mit Influencern [Labeling and transparency in working with influencers]. In A. Schach & T. Lommatzsch (Eds.), Influencer Relations. Marketing und PR mit digitalen Meinungsführern (pp. 265–273). Wiesbaden: SpringerGabler.Search in Google Scholar

Neuberger, C., & Nuernbergk, C. (2010). Competition, complementarity or integration? The relationship between professional and participatory media. Journalism practice, 4(3), 319–332.Search in Google Scholar

Nyilasy, G., & Reid, L. N. (2011). Advertiser pressure and the personal ethical norms of newspaper editors and ad directors. Journal of Advertising Research, 51(3), 538–551.Search in Google Scholar

Obermaier, M., & Koch, T. (2015). Mind the gap. Consequences of inter-role conflicts of freelance journalists with secondary employment in the field of PR. Journalism, 16(5), 615–629.Search in Google Scholar

Porlezza, C. (2017). Under the influence: Advertisers’ impact on the content of Swiss free newspapers. Media and Communication, 5(2), 31–40.Search in Google Scholar

Schenk, M., Niemann, J., & Briehl, A. (2014). Blogger 2014. Das Selbstverständnis von Themenbloggern und ihr Selbstverständnis zum Journalismus [The self-conception of thematic bloggers and their self-conception towards journalism]. Hohenheim: University of Hohenheim.Search in Google Scholar

Siles, I. (2011). From online filter to web format: Articulating materiality and meaning in the early history of blogs. Social Studies of Science, 41(5), 737–758.Search in Google Scholar

Soley, L. C., & Craig, R. L. (1992). Advertising pressures on newspapers: A survey. Journal of Advertising, 21(4), 1–10.Search in Google Scholar

Weber, S. (2000). Was steuert Journalismus? Ein System zwischen Selbstreferenz und Fremdsteuerung [What controls journalism? A system between self-reference and external control]. Konstanz: UVK.Search in Google Scholar

Weischenberg, S., Malik, M., & Scholl, A. (2012). Journalism in Germany in the 21st century. In D. H. Weaver & L. Willnat (Eds.), The global journalist in the 21st century (pp. 205–219). New York: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Wilkinson, J. B., Hausknecht, D. R., & Prough, G. E. (1995). Reader categorization of a controversial communication: Advertisement versus editorial. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 245–254.Search in Google Scholar

Wyss, V. (2002). Redaktionelles Qualitätsmanagement. Ziele, Normen, Ressourcen [Editorial quality management. Aims, norms, resources]. Konstanz: UVK.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2020-04-15
Published in Print: 2020-09-25

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston