The Advertising Standards Authority, which governs and regulates advertising in the U.K., released a new statement defining its position on brand publishing. The regulator, which previously hasn’t specifically addressed how it perceives “editorial content” in the context of advertising, now says that its remit extends to commercial communications in any owned space, as long as it has the likely effect of “selling something.”
But one key exclusion: editorial content.
Speaking specifically in the context of gambling brands, the ASA said that while it is responsible for regulating any marketing communications created by gambling brands, it does believe that it excludes editorial content specifically due to the “need to protect freedom of expression.” It writes: “Gambling social media accounts sometimes include editorial-style content, like commentary or opinions on recent events, or more abstract humour, such as ‘memes’ and other irreverent takes on current sporting news. This has been described by researchers as ‘content marketing’ where there are no direct product references, calls to action or links to operator websites.”
Extrapolating from this, it seems likely the ASA is drawing a clear line between what it sees as advertising (which sells something) and editorial content (which doesn’t.)
Toolkits insight: You know the party’s getting serious once the authorities get involved. Brand publishing has largely flown under the radar of regulators, mostly because despite being so closely related to content marketing, it is a relatively new discipline that is just getting started.
I’ve long said that brands who are creating editorial content have to divorce it from marketing. They must create new editorial teams that don’t sit inside marketing organizations, and they must be beholden to different KPIs and standards of success. And external signals such as the ASA’s belief that editorial content may in fact be held to different regulatory standards than marketing only shores up that argument. Stateside, we saw something similar last year, when Robinhood Snacks was taken to court by rapper and actor Ice Cube for using a picture of him and one of his rap lyrics in its newsletter. The courts agreed with Robinhood that because Snacks constituted an “editorial” property, it wasn’t considered advertising.
Coinbase’s new “think tank”
Coinbase has launched The Coinbase Institute, which it defines as a thinktank that will cut across disciplines to “provide expert analysis and insights about what’s happening in the global crypto economy.”
Director Hermine Wong said a key priority for the institute will be the dissemination of empirical and peer-reviewed research and said this will include an academic partnership with the University of Michigan to measure household adoption and attitudes toward cryptocurrency, per Decrypt.
The group has released its first report, focused on crypto’s relationship with climate and energy efficiency.
Toolkits insight: “Think tank” is one of those terms that really can mean anything. In this case, it’s Coinbase’s latest effort to use content to put forward its own narrative about crypto in a way that aligns with its business goals. It reminds me a lot of Fact Check, the section of its website announced last year that was meant to be a way for Coinbase to publish what it perceived as the “truth” about crypto that media outlets can’t or wont. The blog hasn’t published since last August.
Web3 is a true opportunity for brand publishers. It comes with its share of confusion and is marked by a peculiarly binary way of thinking where you’re either “with” crypto or “against” it. It has its share of tensions, which makes for good storytelling, and complexity. All of this is playing out in this latest effort by Coinbase.
Inside First Round Review’s brand publishing strategy
First Round Review is a pioneer in VC publishing.
Launched in 2013, the publication from VC firm First Round bills itself the HBR for Startups, and aims to connect its community of founders, execs and entrepreneurs with a plethora of service-oriented articles that feature advice, how-tos and best practices. It dips into its vast network to interview founders, and publishes expertise gleaned from its own staff – particularly from its experience helping companies grow. We spoke with First Round Review’s editor, Jessi Craige Shikman, about how she structures a lean team, how it consistently generates high-quality content ideas, and how it tries to set its content apart from the competition. Read our Q&A with Shikman here.