Semantic musings ahead. Scroll onward at your own peril.
Law & Order detectives always want to “get justice for the victim”. Opponents of police brutality also call for justice, by name. No one opposes justice, as far as I know. And yet… what is it, exactly? An eye for an eye? Moral concepts can be so slippery. I can’t get a handle on justice.
The Macmillan Dictionary defines the word as “the fact that something is reasonable and fair” or “treatment of people that is fair and morally right”. To make sense of these definitions, you have to define “reasonable”, “fair”, and “morally right”. Those words are difficult to pin down, to but I define them like this, respectively:
justifiable with logic; intuitively acceptable
sameness of treatment and condition
justifiable given a certain paradigm
Truism: life ain’t fair. Therefore… justice is an infrequent occurrence? (Hence the first illustration, in which Lady Justice walks naked through the wind, brandishing her scales and sword.) Most often the way I hear justice used tallies with “retribution”, but isn’t justice supposed to be a more noble concept?
Anthony De Rosa (chief editor of Circa News) has a point. In effect, sponsored posts are advertisements. But the experience of reading one is more complex than that.
No one is going to click on an article billed as an advertisement. They shouldn’t, because reading several hundred words of traditional advertising copy would be tiresome. However, paid-for editorial can feel different from a hard-sell ad. Using a new term for a distinct practice does not constitute deceiving readers. Jarvis’ survey demonstrates that the terms currently being used are inadequate, but that doesn’t mean “advertisement” is the only option. I agree that clear language is needed, but I don’t agree with the conflation of regular ads and “content marketing”.
Underneath the vague disclosure—that part is not exemplary—is an actual story. Marriott paid for the essay and I associate it with them, but the text ignores Marriott. An unnamed hotel is mentioned once, but that’s as close as it gets. The purpose of this sponsored post is to link luxurious wandering with Marriott, which it accomplishes. Without being totally evil.
TL;DR? Be honest with readers, yes, but there’s no need to unnecessarily hamper native advertising. It’s frequently executed abysmally, but so is everything.