The current codes of ethics do not address sponsored content sufficiently, a new study states. The article by Pasi Ikonen and Vilma Luoma-aho of the University of Jyväskylä and Shannon A. Bowen of the University of South Carolina studied ethical guidelines from journalism, public relations, marketing and advertising.
Sponsored content has gained popularity in the recent years, and it is used on many platforms of traditional journalistics publishers. The authors analysed 40 codes of ethics from the US, Finland and from international associations. Among them were 10 codes from journalistic associations and 5 from media outlets.
The results show that there remains a lot of variation of how transparency of sponsored content is addressed, and the study found 9 categories of dealing with the issue. Most codes deal with transparency and the separation between commercial and editorial content only vaguely. Generally speaking, guidelines for journalists took separation into account, and there are also several guides which addressed sponsored content. US codes took the issue better into account than their Finnish counterparts.
Concluding, the authors call for better self-regulation of the professions and more collaboration across professional boundaries, such as a joint code of ethics.
The article “Transparency for Sponsored Content” was published in International Journal of Strategic Communication and is available online (free abstract).
DISCLAIMER: The first author of the article, Pasi Ikonen, is an employee at Journalism Research News.
Picture: Nine stories by David Goehring, license CC BY 2.0