WSJ Videos: Edit or Advertising?

I like to consider myself an expert on sniffing out advertiser messages among editorial content. But today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal’s MEDIA AND MARKETING EDITION newsletter has me stumped!

The email arrives daily with “WSJ.com Editors” in the From field, and most of the links are to editorial stories — so I’ve always pegged this an editorial product. There are advertising links, which are generally marked as such. Today’s first link is one of those: “Advertising: Dell is rolling out a TV, print and online ad campaign aimed at promoting its new line of colorful notebook computers, the company’s latest step to jump-start lagging sales,” just above the link to the Dell ad.

The second story, though, is marked “WSJ Video” but also says it’s an invitation to watch a Dell commercial: “WSJ Video: Watch an ad for Dell’s new line of notebook computers.” When I followed the link to the WSJ.com site and watched the videos, they appear to be advertorials or what PR firms used to call “video news releases.” Toward the end of the video segment, text in the video window announced the content was provided “courtesy of Dell via Beam TV” — aha! It’s an ad! But before and after the segment, the screen filled up with the WSJ Online logo along with text that said “presented” by WSJ. And the WSJ logo ran as a watermark over the video the whole time (like CNN or MSNBC does over their own news footage, but not commercials on those networks), and nothing on the website or player window (nothing I could find, anyway) disclosed that it was sponsored or advertising content — though WSJ did post a disclosure on the player window while traditional Cisco video ads ran before and after the Dell advertorial.

Wait a second! The WSJ crew convinced Cisco to run commercials around Dell commercials! (Assuming those Dell videos are, in fact, commercials.) The entire ad-sales team here at ChasNote is humbled. Wow.

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