Consumer Magazines are Sometimes Disguised Ads

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We all want to trust that what we read is true, authentic, and genuine, but often the printed word is backed up by paying sponsors who control the spin.
For that reason, the magazine Consumer Reports came out many years ago, to provide trustworthy critiques of consumer products within the hype and bias.
Even Consumer Reports has to fight to keep its own reputation as an objective magazine, because so many readers are skeptical that a media company will sell itself out to the powerful corporate interests that make those many consumer products.
Of course most of us can easily understand why bribes to a magazine that is in the business of critiquing products would be a problem, and why it is essential to stay above that kind of influence for this type of publication.
But the mission or editorial position of most magazines can be a difficult thing to ascertain, because the way they present themselves appears to be balanced and not advertiser controlled.
For instance, there are some magazines that appear to be about travel and entertainment on the surface, but they are actually owned, edited, and distributed by makers of the products that show up when we go traveling or go out to be entertained.
Cigarette companies have a difficult time retaining or gaining customers because of the serious health risk posed by their products, for example.
But some of these companies create magazines that profile all the coolest places to visit, clubs to go to and dance, or restaurants.
And then they cleverly insert cigarettes into the photos that illustrate those articles, so that readers make a subtle connection between having fun and having a smoke.
And if you own a restaurant or hotel that doesn't allow smoking, your particular establishment - no matter how popular as a tourist destination - will not get featured in the magazine.
The strategy is subtle, but influential.
Similarly, there are magazines about mountain adventures that are owned by companies that make four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles.
There are magazines about sports like football and boxing that are published by companies that sell beer or liquor.
And there are many tour guides - the ones that recommend places to stay and things to do in tourist towns - which have no ads, but get their revenue from the places they write about in the book.
Of course there are also tons of magazines about health and fitness that are underwritten by companies that sell weight loss products and energy drinks.
Wherever we look, there are companies publishing magazines for us to read for entertainment or information, and their advertising is not just in the obvious ads, but is also embedded into the content of the articles.
If you want to ferret out the source of content in magazines whose editorial style may be biased, you can check the masthead to see who the publisher is.
But if they are clever enough, they will disguise that affiliation as well.
The best way to sort the truth from the hype is to be a vigilant and careful reader.
Enjoy what you read, but keep in mind that it might have been written by someone trying to sell you something more than just a magazine.
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