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Is Fashion's Line Between Advertising and Editorial Already Gone?

Photo via Pop

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Fashion magazines are jumping feet first into e-commerce and native advertising, but how this all will shake out with editorial content is still quite murky. Business of Fashion's Kate Abnett takes a deep dive into the current state of fashion journalism, talking to former and current editors, professors, and consultants about how the separation of church and state between advertising and editorial has changed, and what the future will look like if that line completely dissolves.

The line has always been blurry, according to Abnett, but now some editors are reporting that brands are refusing to sign off on advertising without an agreement that they will also be covered in editorial articles.

Tiffanie Darke, creative content director at News UK and a former editor of the Sunday Times’ fashion supplement Style, told BoF that a credit used to mean an item covered in an article, but now advertisers ask for a credit and they are "more likely to mean a whole outfit or an entire page."

"It felt like everything you did wasn’t quite enough," she said. "There were those big fashion labels that wanted you to cover every bit of news for them… almost without thinking about what the reader wants to hear about."

So are advertisers in the driver's seat? "You don’t ever see much criticism, even in the in-depth features," London College of Fashion's Josephine Collins told BoF. "I think it’s going to end where we might only find critique or criticism of fashion in newspapers, which are not as dependent on fashion brands for advertising."

Other editors are rolling with the punches, like Ashley Heath, owner and editorial director of Pop magazine and Arena Homme+, who recently partnered with Louis Vuitton for an 82-page branded feature that ran in Pop. "Why wouldn't you want to partner closely with such taste makers?" Heath told BoF.

As the media landscape shifts, former Condé Nast exec Tom Florio thinks publishers are trying to establish the church and state separation on the fly, even though the magazines could lose readers' trust. "I think a lot of these traditional media companies are trying to figure it out," he said. "They’re losing their audience revenue, they’re losing their advertising page revenue, they’re just running as hard and as fast as they can trying to figure out a new business model."