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 Says There Are 3 Chambers of Congress

November 10, 2016

Is there anything that is not for sale at the $tately local broadsheet?

The hardreading staff has chronicled many a money-making scheme at the Globe over the past several years, from double-dipping on the Prouty Garden dustup at Boston Children’s Hospital to Garden-variety promotion for Delaware North/Boston Properties real estate developments to the Globe’s Citgo sign conflict of interest.

Then there was this in yesterday’s Election Hangover edition of the paper.

 

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Apparently, the Globe is willing to slap an advertiser’s logo on virtually any piece of editorial content. (See also how Suffolk University and Steward Health Care colonized the Globe’s Capital section a while back.)

But . . . Herb Chambers? On an electoral map? What – we’re supposed to drive across the border before president-elect Donald J. Trump gets a chance to wall us in?

Then again, don’t look for logic from the Globe nowadays. Just logos.


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?


Prouty Garden Fight Gets Even More Tangled

February 26, 2016

Children’s Hospital, already engaged in an increasingly public skirmish with advocates fighting to save the medical facility’s Prouty Garden, now faces an even bigger and potentially more damaging battle. From Page One of today’s Boston Globe.

‘I’m very angry,’ teen says of ordeal

Pelletiers sue Children’s Hospital, cite misdeeds

 

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Nearly two years after she returned home in the arms of her father, Justina Pelletier was back in the spotlight Thursday, speaking in a small, slightly shaky voice about the 16 months she spent in state custody, much of it in a locked psychiatric ward.

Justina, whose case drew national attention to the power of medical professionals to override parental rights, said she remains outraged that she was placed in state custody in 2013 after Boston Children’s Hospital accused her parents of interfering with her care.

The 17-year-old Connecticut girl clutched a purple stress ball, fingernails painted turquoise, as she spoke from a wheelchair in front of the State House, where her parents had convened a press conference to discuss the lawsuit they recently filed against Children’s Hospital.

 

Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald frames it as a jump ball:

[W]hat we’re seeing in the heart-wrenching case of Justina Pelletier is a drama that defies easy answers, a high-stakes confrontation in which what we do not know is infinitely more important than what we do know.

 

There’ll be plenty of headlines to make Children’s officials cringe as this case plays out. Meanwhile, the hits just keep on coming in the Prouty Garden rumpus.

Yesterday there was this front-page piece in the Business section.

Amid backlash, hospital defends expansion plan

When Dr. Sitaram Emani, a cardiac surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, heard about the baby from Springfield with the failing heart, he knew he could help.

But Emani quickly realized there was no room for the boy at the overcrowded hospital. Under sedation, the boy Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.21.18 AMwaited for weeks until Emani could fix the holes in his heart.

It’s a story that doctors and executives at Children’s, the region’s dominant pediatric care center, tell again and again: They don’t have enough beds, surgeries are being delayed, patients are being turned away and sent to other hospitals. And it’s why executives say they need to complete a $1 billion expansion of their Longwood Medical Area campus, a project that would create an 11-story tower with more room for doctors and nurses to treat more patients.

 

Except for those pesky Prouty people.

Yet the hospital’s message has been undercut recently by a group opposed to the proposal for reasons that have nothing to do with surgeries or beds. They object to the plan to build the tower over the Prouty Garden, a tranquil refuge for countless sick and dying children and their families. And many have emotional stories to tell.

 

But it’s the hospital’s story that’s mostly told in the Globe piece, which includes this:

 

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Advantage: Children’s.

Then there’s the paid portion of the $tately local broadsheet’s edition yesterday: this full-page ad on A12.

 

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(To be sure graf goes here.)

To be sure, there’s no reason to say that the Globe’s financial interest play into the paper’s coverage. It’s just that they sometimes do seem intertwined.

Regardless, the Prouty dustup is back in the Globe headlines today with this front-page Business piece.

Opponents lobby to keep Prouty

Opponents of Boston Children’s Hospital’s proposed $1.5 billion expansion asked the hospital to disclose all the alternative locations it considered before settling on a plan to build an 11-story tower on the site of the beloved Prouty Garden.Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.46.00 PM

They asked state public health officials to deny Children’s application, arguing that hospital executives have not met the state requirements for proving cost effectiveness, particularly regarding poorer patients.

The expansion project, which would add a pediatric heart center, neonatal intensive care unit, and private rooms, has attracted opposition from some patients’ families and doctors, including renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, who say that the half-acre garden has served as an oasis for families struggling with serious illness.

 

Maybe even the Pelletiers, eh?


Boston Globe Argues with Itself Over Prouty Garden

February 24, 2016

The Prouty Garden debate continues in the news today, with the Boston Globe of two minds over the planned demolition of the beloved oasis at Children’s Hospital to make way for a 500,000 square foot state-of-the-art intensive care unit for infants, a pediatric heart center, and additional operating rooms.

A Globe editorial makes the case for pursuing the greater good in this case. Under the headline “Children’s has the right vision for Prouty Garden,” the editors say this:

Children’s has demonstrated its willingness to work with the City of Boston, the Prouty family, and others to create spaces that can serve as a respite for families with sick children. [Children’s chief operating officer Dr. Kevin] Churchwell says the hospital recognizes “green space is part of the healing process.” Next year, a new garden is scheduled to open on the roof of Children’s main building. The expansion plans also call for a smaller outdoor garden (about half the size of Prouty), and indoor spaces that can be visited by patients who are unable to go outside. As hospital officials have pointed out, Prouty often isn’t usable by anyone during cold weather months.

 

Then again, “Jim McManus, a consultant working with Friends of the Prouty Garden — a group that has mobilized support for keeping Prouty intact — isn’t impressed. Rooftop gardens are typically windswept, unwelcoming, and devoid of wildlife, he says, and indoor green spaces are too hot in summer. Children’s can grow ‘without trashing Prouty,’ McManus says. ‘If you put a building there, it’s irreversible.'”

Just what that means in human terms is illustrated in Thomas Farragher’s Metro column today. Farragher tells the story of David Horton, a 13-year-old New Jersey boy who died of a brain tumor in 1973 after 13 operations at Children’s. His family spent untold hours with David in the Prouty Garden. “It was the only place in the hospital where you could breathe fresh air and get outside,’’ Elizabeth Richter, David’s sister, told Farragher. “And it was the only way we could see David. We’d spend hours there.’’

And when David died, his family decided he should spend eternity there.

[T]hey wrapped him in a blanket, placed him the backseat of a Volkswagen Beetle, and drove through a snowstorm from New Jersey to Boston for an autopsy. “My Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.44.15 PMparents hoped something could be learned for the future treatment of kids with similar condition,’’ Richter said. “They were determined to do that. They wanted his life and death to be a benefit to others.’’

And then they wanted peace for their son. David was cremated, and on a cold February evening, the Horton family assembled for the last time in the garden David loved.

 

And scattered his ashes in the Prouty Garden.

Farragher concludes:

How can state officials calculate the worth of the land consecrated with the ashes of David Horton? How can Boston Children’s Hospital assess the cost of abandoning its promise — made 60 years ago — that the Prouty Garden would be a refuge for its little patients for as long as the hospital was working to heal them?

How can anyone place a value on something like that? They can’t. It’s immeasurable.

Immeasurable. It’s a good word for the loss that will be absorbed if bulldozers are allowed to plow under David Horton’s final resting place.

 

The Massachusetts Department of Public health will hold a hearing tomorrow on the expansion proposed by Children’s Hospital. You can bet the Friends of the Prouty Garden – and of David Horton – will be out in full force.


Boston Globe the Skunk at Prouty Garden Party?

February 22, 2016

As the hardreading staffed has extensively noted, the PR battle over the demolition of the Prouty Garden at Children’s Hospital has been waged on multiple fronts in the news media, both paid and unpaid.

Representative samples of paid media in the form of full-page ads in the Boston dailies:

 

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Representative sample of unpaid media – compliments of Children’s CEO Sandra Fenwick – on last Thursday’s Boston Globe’s op-ed page:

 

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Beyond that, yesterday’s Globe featured this full-page ad for at least the second time:

 

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So here’s our question, again:

Will the Globe give equal op-time to the Save the Prouty Garden folks?

Or does just money talk at the $tately local broadsheet?

Well . . .

Today’s Globe provides the answer in the form of yet another costly full-page ad from the pro-Prouty forces.

 

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Nuts ‘n’ bolts graf:

 

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That’s all well and good, but once again, Globeniks: When does the Prouty gets its freebie?