I say the problem starts with the format: the jarring thing about the Scientology “article” is that it looked like, mimicked, aped, a genuine, bona fide Atlantic article. And the more that it looked, felt, and read like an Atlantic article, the more successful, the more “native,” it was.

In that, it was no different from the IBM post, which Tracy found, that was also sponsored content.

It was an attempt by an outside organization with its own agenda to pass itself off as a “part of the content,” native to the site.

But it’s not. And it never can be.


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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.