Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Will the BlackBerry PlayBook be a game changing web tablet?

Er, no. But Shiny Shiny suggests otherwise today.

Yes, RIM has paid for this piece of product puff. But putting the article out in your normal RSS feed and at the top of your homepage with only the merest hints that it is sponsored (a small label saying 'sponsored post') worries me. And by the way, 'sponsored post' doesn't suggest it was written specifically for the sponsor - it could be a normal article that has been promoted (which it blatantly isn't).

Anyone who has read any of the reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook will know that it's a flawed device that needs a good few OS updates before it becomes viable. It might be pretty, but the bloody thing doesn't have email. Lots of the sites I trust for opinion have agreed on how disappointing it is. I know, for sure, that it's 'sleek but flawed'.

So this article stood out like a sore thumb against my aggregate knowledge of the device. And, as a result, my faith in Shiny Shiny's opinion has eroded slightly. I mean, is this why there isn't a review of the PlayBook on the site at all?

I'm not suggesting editorial doesn't need to be supported by ad revenue. I've had just as many arguments with advertising sales people ("your copy is there just to keep the ads apart hur hur") as I have with editors looking for ways to keep their extremely valuable sites going through sponsorship deals. There is no easy answer. It's a fine line we all tread.

But I think Shiny Shiny might've crossed it with their treatment of advertorial copy. So what should they do? Here's my advice for treating sponsored copy in a way that respects your readers:

Take it out of the feeds - readers don't want it clogging up valuable RSS space
Get if off the homepage - or at least move it from a section devoted to editorial
Redesign it - editorial looks boring but reads well. Advertorial can be the opposite
Change the byline - it shouldn't be a staffer, they have a reputation to uphold
Offer free stuff - reward the reader with a chance to win something!

In this case, a simple 'click to enter' competition to win a PlayBook would've saved the day. And I would've entered, because I'm sure that by version 3 the PlayBook will have become a game changing web tablet.