The Guardian and Zurich: “independent” journalism? Hardly

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Journalism and money simply don’t go hand in hand anymore: online advertising is not working, ad sales and online revenue  as well as circulation are doing poorly, with very very rare exceptions.

So the Guardian has a new idea, to join forces with Zurich insurance for a “campaign”:

“to raise awareness of the biggest financial considerations people face at key life stages. The partnership, which brings together the expertise of Zurich and the Guardian’s editorial Money team, features a range of cross-media platform activity and the launch of a new app. Life Navigator presents Guardian readers with tools, advice and relevant Guardian Money editorial content that can help them make the right financial decisions now and in the future.”

There’s nothing new here except an app and the notion of cross media: otherwise, this concept and the way it works are the same as all those advertorials and paid supplements we’ve seen over the years in print, and the success rate of those has been tiny, unless you count the amount of money gullible advertisers have spent. Editorial is affected by the knowledge that one big client is footing the bill, despite all claims to the contrary (I base this mainly on my own experience, having written a few for reputable news organizations).

It would have been better to let Zurich announce that it has a new app, which might well interest people, and to mention that the Guardian’s editorial staff have done the writing, which would say something positive about the readability.

The home for the “campaign” will be the Guardian’s money pages; it remains to be seen if it will be clearly earmarked “advertising”.

Instead, we get this bit of corporate bio at the end: “Guardian News & Media (GNM) publishes, one of the world’s leading news websites, as well as and the Guardian and Observer newspapers. GNM is the core business of Guardian Media Group (GMG), whose sole shareholder is The Scott Trust Ltd. The core purpose of The Scott Trust Ltd is to secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity.”

RIP, credible journalism.