Boston Sunday Globe Inserts: Ads in Sheep’s Clothing

October 28, 2019

Branded content comes in many forms, as our kissin’ cousins at Sneak Attack have extensively chronicled. The New York Times has been particularly adroit at all forms of branded content, which Sneak Adtack noted earlier this year.

For the past four years the hardtracking staff has chronicled the drift by the New York Times toward cross-platform integration of native advertising, a.k.a. Russian Nesting Ads. A company runs an ad in the paper’s print edition that promotes an online ad that the Times’s T Brand Studio has created to look like editorial content. (Representative sample here.)

 

The Boston Globe, on the other hand, has only flirted with native advertising up to now, as in this bit of UMass marketing from a few years ago. Given the evidence of the past week, though, the $tately local broadsheet seems ready to dive into the deep end of the stealth marketing pool.

Last week’s Boston Sunday Globe included this eight-page Advertising Supplement produced by Boston Globe Media’s BG BrandLab.

 

 

With branded content, the first thing you want to look at is disclosure – how clear is it to readers that they’re looking at marketing material and not editorial content?

Give this effort a C- in transparency. “Special Report” is about three times the type size of “Advertising Supplement” on the front page, and this sort-of masthead – buried bottom left – occupies about five percent of page two.

 

 

Inside there are six unbylined articles along with four “Provided by” items that are presumably paid content.

 

 

Not surprisingly, the advertising supplement’s “Knowledge Partners” at the bottom of Page One also occupied some of the inside space, starting with this American Cancer Society advertorial atop page two.

 

 

Then the Boston Breast Cancer Equity Coalition got its ad turn.

 

 

And, of course, Susan G. Komen New England also made an advertising appearance.

 

 

There were also traditional ads for Lady Grace, Avon, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Then yesterday came this Special Report on cybersecurity.

 

 

In terms of transparency, this one gets a D. Start with the top of page two, which looks very much like a standard Editor’s Letter.

 

 

(Note to BGniks: You might want to standardize the spelling of your name. The front page has BG BrandLab, the foreword is by BG Brandlab, and the sign-off is The BG Brand Labs Team. Details, people.)

The sort-of masthead that was small in the first insert is positively minuscule in this one.

 

 

See that tiny band at the bottom? That’s it.

Other differences: There are a couple of bylined articles; “Provided by” has mostly turned into “Sponsored by” (one of them is on election security from Brianna Wu, although it does not identify her as a primary challenger to Stephen Lynch in Massachusetts’ 8th district – bad investment); and the Knowledge Partners on the front page – the National Cyber Security Alliance and Mitre – don’t have ads inside.

Oh, yes – and the whole thing looks a lot more like an editorial section than the first one.

But at least those two inserts are marginally transparent about being marketing material. Far worse was last month’s Globe wet kiss to Boston Children’s Hospital in the form of A 150th Anniversary Special Issue. It’s just the latest instance of the Globe’s playing footsie with BCH over the past few years, although it’s an especially egregious one in that it required the participation of the Globe newsroom.

It’s one puff piece after another, interspersed with dozens of costly congratulatory ads.

But no mention in those 68 pages of the hospital’s wanton destruction of the beloved Prouty Garden, or the battle over the hospital’s questionable expansion to service a projected – but by no means assured – international clientele.

 

To recap:

The BG BrandLab inserts strike us as Misdemeanor Misleading. The BCH 150th anniversary issue was Felony Failure of editorial integrity.

Court is adjourned.


Boston Globe’s Wet Kiss to Children’s: Rx for $$$

September 30, 2019

As the hardreading staff unfolded its Boston Sunday Globe yesterday, we encountered this notice at the bottom of Page One.

Except . . .

We also encountered this 68-page magazine nestled inside the paper.

 

 

Must be an advertising supplement for Boston Children’s Hospital, we thought, given its relentlessly sunny-side-up Table of Contents.

 

 

But, actually, the magazine was produced by Boston Globe staffers.

 

 

It’s one puff piece after another, interspersed with dozens of costly congratulatory ads.

But no mention in those 68 pages of the hospital’s wanton destruction of the beloved Prouty Garden, or the battle over the hospital’s questionable expansion to service a projected – but by no means assured – international clientele.

(To be clear graf goes here)

To be clear, this isn’t the first time the Globe has played footsie with BCH. As we previously noted:

Boston Globe $hilling Again for Children’s Hospital

This is getting really flagrant.

As the hardreading staff has noted multiple times, the Boston Globe has put on a full-court press over the past week promoting the proposed expansion of Boston Children’s Hospital.

Last week it was an op-ed piece from former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer urging state officials to get off their duffs and approve the expansion, already. Problem was, the Globe failed to mention that Widmer sits on the hospital’s Board Committee for Community Service.

On Sunday, this Globe editorial urged the state’s Public Health Council to approve the project.

Now today comes this op-ed by Jack Connors Jr., chairman emeritus of Partners HealthCare.

 

Not to mention the Globe’s accepting full-page ads from Children’s as it supported the hospital’s expansion on its Business pages and providing op-ed space for BCH president and CEO Sandra Fenwick to plead her case unopposed by dissenting points of view, of which there have been many.

(To be fair graf goes here)

To be fair, newspapers routinely produce vehicles largely designed to draw advertisers. This one just seems a little, well, germy.


Boston Globe $hilling Again for Children’s Hospital

October 18, 2016

This is getting really flagrant.

As the hardreading staff has noted multiple times, the Boston Globe has put on a full-court press over the past week promoting the proposed expansion of Boston Children’s Hospital.

Last week it was an op-ed piece from former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer urging state officials to get off their duffs and approve the expansion, already. Problem was, the Globe failed to mention that Widmer sits on the hospital’s Board Committee for Community Service.

On Sunday, this Globe editorial urged the state’s Public Health Council to approve the project.

Now today comes this op-ed by Jack Connors Jr., chairman emeritus of Partners HealthCare. The piece ends this way:

Hospitals around New England and beyond are referring their most challenging pediatric cases to the talented professionals at Boston Children’s Hospital. These clinicians have dedicated their lives to caring for children with the most complex medical needs. We need to come together and give them our support. We need to let them prepare for a better future for our children and grandchildren. There are so many families who rely on Boston Children’s today — and will rely on it in the future — who will be eternally grateful.

 

So, that’s three pro, no con for those of you keeping score at home.

As the Globe has been stacking the deck editorially, Children’s has been running full-page ads in the paper also touting the expansion. Here is today’s ad-ition:

 

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At this point, the only balance the Globe seems concerned with is its checking account balance.


Boston Globe Still Shilling for Children’s Hospital

October 17, 2016

At this point, it’s hard not to think that the Boston Globe is so far in the tank for the proposed Children’s Hospital expansion, they should be wearing scuba gear on Morrissey Boulevard.

As the hardreading staff noted last week, the Globe ran this op-ed piece by former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer on Wednesday. Widmer argued that there’s been too much shilly-shallying over approving the expansion and that state agencies should step aside and let Children’s get on with it.

What did not get mentioned in the op-ed piece is that Michael Widmer sits on the hospital’s Board Committee for Community Service.

Making things look even worse, this full-page ad also ran in last Wednesday’s Globe.

 

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Sure looks like the left hand does know what the right hand is doing. (Another full-page Children’s ad ran last Friday.)

And then came this editorial in yesterday’s Globe.

A yes for Children’s Hospital project

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A STATE PANEL’S upcoming vote on a $1 billion building project proposed by Boston Children’s Hospital comes down to this: Will allowing one of the nation’s most prestigious pediatric care centers to become bigger also drive up medical spending statewide and cause irreparable harm to Children’s competitors? The short answer: It doesn’t have to. Concerns about the project’s ripple effects are legitimate, but they don’t outweigh the need to upgrade a hospital that provides life-saving care to thousands of children from Massachusetts and around the world.

 

(To be sure graf goes here)

To be sure, it’s quite possible that everyone at the Globe is just swimming in their own lane and there’s no concerted effort to boost the fortunes of a deep-pockets advertiser. (We count at least six full-page ads over the past seven months.)

But when the paper won’t even properly identify a Children’s board member using the Globe’s op-ed page to flack for the hospital, you really start to wonder.


Boston Globe Still in the Tank for Children’s Hospital

October 14, 2016

Apparently, the Boston Globe is willing to carry water for Boston’s Children’s Hospital like Gunga Din in the ongoing dispute over the medical center’s expansion plan.

As the hardreading staff noted the other day, the Globe ran this op-ed piece by former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer in Wednesday’s edition.

Watchdog overreaches on Children’s Hospital expansion

bch-bridge-renderings-1a

ONE OF the iron laws of public policy is that regulatory agencies have an irresistible tendency to push the limits of their power and authority. Whether it’s the environment, transportation, or health care, the agency seems compelled to prove the purpose of its existence by reaching ever further into the regulatory arena.

We saw a classic example of that recently when the Health Policy Commission inserted itself into Boston Children’s Hospital’s determination of need application to upgrade its facilities. This is the first time that the HPC has chosen to comment on a determination of need application, and it did it 10 months after the hospital first submitted its application to the Department of Public Health, which had launched an extensive public process with widespread commentary and analysis.

 

Widmer also wrote that “the Health Policy Commission should never have inserted itself into the process in the first place.”

What we wrote was that Widmer shouldn’t have been inserted into the Globe op-ed page without the paper noting that he serves on the Children’s Hospital Board Committee for Community Service.

Coincidentally (or not), Wednesday’s Globe also featured this full-page ad.

 

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Conflict of interest, right?

Calls for full disclosure, right?

No such thing from the Globe.

So we sent this email to Globe editorial page editor Ellen Clegg:

Hi, Ellen,

[We] just published this post on Two-Daily Town.

http://bit.ly/2dXG7ZD

[We] would welcome the opportunity to post your response.

Sincerely,
[The Hardreading Staff]

 

So far . . . nothing.

No response from Ms. Clegg. No editor’s note about Widmer in the Globe. No nothing.

Except . . .

Another full-page ad in today’s Globe.

 

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(Children’s is so desperate to burnish its image, the hospital even ran the ad in today’s Boston Herald.)

To recap: The Boston Globe ran an op-ed piece from a Children’s Hospital Board member (without identifying him as such) that promoted the hospital’s controversial expansion plan on the same day the paper ran a lucrative full-page ad promoting the hospital’s controversial expansion plan.

And then ran another lucrative ad.

That’s not journalism. That’s full-service marketing.

Globe editors should know better. Globe readers deserve better.


Conflict of Interest on Boston Globe’s Op-Ed Page?

October 12, 2016

Former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer has this op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe.

Watchdog overreaches on Children’s expansion

bch-bridge-renderings-1a

ONE OF the iron laws of public policy is that regulatory agencies have an irresistible tendency to push the limits of their power and authority. Whether it’s the environment, transportation, or health care, the agency seems compelled to prove the purpose of its existence by reaching ever further into the regulatory arena.

We saw a classic example of that recently when the Health Policy Commission inserted itself into Boston Children’s Hospital’s determination of need application to upgrade its facilities. This is the first time that the HPC has chosen to comment on a determination of need application, and it did it 10 months after the hospital first submitted its application to the Department of Public Health, which had launched an extensive public process with widespread commentary and analysis.

 

Widmer further states that “the Health Policy Commission should never have inserted itself into the process in the first place.”

But others say the Globe should never have inserted Widmer into the op-ed page – at least not without full disclosure.

An opponent of the Children’s expansion sent us this:

[Widmer] chastised the Health Policy Commission for scrutinizing the largest hospital expansion proposal in state history. HPC is supposed to help control health care costs in the Commonwealth, so of course it would raise objections to this unnecessary proposal. Then, Widmer did not disclose his own role with the hospital. The Globe should be more careful, and the hospital should be more honest.

 

Widmer’s role with Children’s? He’s listed on the hospital’s website as a member of its Board Committee for Community Service.

 

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-1-01-28-pm

 

In addition, there’s this comment attached to the web version of Widmer’s op-ed:

Mike Widmer is on the Board of Children’s Hospital. Printing this column is wrong. Given the Globe’s revenue struggles, it could have charged Children’s for ad space here.

Either very sloppy, or a serious breach of ethics by both the Globe and Widmer– or maybe both.

 

We’ve sent an email to Editorial Page Editor Ellen Clegg asking for a response. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: As the irrepressible Alex Beam notes, I failed to mention the Children’s ad on page 3 of today’s Globe.

 

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Well, that closes the circle, eh?


Skunk Already at the Prouty Garden?

March 21, 2016

 

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When we last left the tug-of-war over demolition of the Prouty Garden at Boston Children’s Hospital three weeks ago, it was pretty much in limbo.

There was a hearing before representatives of the Massachusetts Public Health Council, which has final authority over the project to replace the garden with a billion-dollar expansion.

And Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey had “declined a request by opponents to block Boston Children’s Hospital from building an 11-story addition where the beloved Prouty Garden currently sits,” according to a Boston Globe report.

And then . . . nothing.

Except this, yesterday, from splendid reader SFR:

The skunk at the party is the chainsaws that have ALREADY started taking down trees and bushes in the Prouty Garden, before the new building is even approved; this shows beyond a shadow of a doubt there is a very strong and real desire to destroy Prouty, whether a building goes up or not. The “Friends of Prouty” failed to anticipate this, and did not get a restraining order against the hospital to prevent this destruction. Even if the new building is denied by DPH, by the time the decision is made, what’s left of Prouty will be dirt and saw dust.

 

This is the way the Prouty Garden ends? Not with a bang but a whimper?