James Fallows, a national correspondent with The Atlantic, was getting tired of being inundated with pitches from advertisers to put a “sponsored content” article on the magazine’s website. But he was also getting a little intrigued by how such a deal would be structured. So he replied to one such pitch and pretended to be interested.
The advertiser represented an online gambling company that offered to pay to have an “article” placed on The Atlantic’s site for 12 months. The story could not be labeled as sponsored or give any indication that it was, in fact, an ad. The story would be about industry news relating to the company, particularly how the company was shifting its focus to female customers. If possible, the story’s links should be set at “dofollow” — HTML-speak for a tag that boosts the site’s search result rankings. With the “dofollow” tag, the gambling company was asking The Atlantic to vouch for them to Google — and willing to bump up the pay in return.
Fallows replied that his magazine would have to decline the offer.