Letter from the editor: introducing Brand Link

Explaining The Cavalier Daily's new model for sponsored content

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Today, The Cavalier Daily introduced Brand Link, a new platform advertisers can use to connect with Cavalier Daily audiences via our online website, www.cavalierdaily.com. Whereas advertisers have traditionally been limited to visual ads integrated into our general web design, they will now have the opportunity to send us advertiser-generated written content, which will be housed on a separate portal accessible through the main site. This is the first time The Cavalier Daily will offer this advertising option.

As professional and student media organizations alike seek to develop new, innovative ways to appeal to advertisers as they confront declining print revenue, discussions about sponsored content are by and large avoided. Frankly, the issue is treated with kid gloves for good reason — the value of a newspaper lies with its editorial integrity, and if a paper allows advertisers to pay for coverage, this integrity is invariably compromised.

Discussions about sponsored content center around two major questions. First, can journalists truly be impartial if they know an advertiser is paying for a story? And second, even if a paper’s journalists are not used and an advertiser independently produces its own content, is placing advertiser-generated content alongside general content without clear demarcation fair to readers?

From where we stand, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding no — sponsored content poses real problems for journalistic objectivity, and readers, in consuming their news, deserve clarity and transparency without qualification. News organizations exist to provide a community with information, and if an organization is not transparent in sourcing and presenting that information, it fails this community — and ultimately fails itself.

Our sponsored content model reflects these concerns. All advertiser-generated content will be clearly labeled and housed under our Brand Link hub, completely separate from other literary and editorial content. No Cavalier Daily editorial resources will be used in the production of sponsored content, which advertisers will write and edit on their own. As editor-in-chief, I will personally upload all Brand Link content to the website. Though I will not perform line-by-line edits, I do reserve the right not to publish content on Brand Link deemed in poor taste. Lastly, at present, sponsor-generated content will not appear in print.

Brand Link does not offer advertisers our writers or our editors — but it does offer them our platform, a move we believe will be viewed favorably by advertisers, who have the freedom to shape their own message, and by readers, who can rest assured the source of all information presented in The Cavalier Daily will remain readily apparent.

As a student media organization, The Cavalier Daily has the opportunity to test a model recently implemented by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Forbes and The Washington Post on a smaller, more manageable scale. In today’s media environment, few things are constant — and media organizations of all sizes can move past previous limitations, embodying the inventive and progressive spirit on which the industry prides itself. Through Brand Link, we aim to take advantage of this atmosphere on our own terms.

— Julia Horowitz, The Cavalier Daily's 126th editor-in-chief

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