Lifestyle journalists under pressure from advertising and public relations?

23.04.2020

Travel, beauty and fashion journalists feel most affected

While advertising and PR industries are growing, journalists experience increasing financial pressures in their work. As a result, the frontier between journalism on one side and public relations and advertising on the other side is getting more and more blurry: Advertorials and product reviews appear alongside editorial content. In the course of a new study conducted by members of the Department of Communication, over 600 lifestyle journalists were interviewed – travel, beauty and fashion journalists feel most affected.

Due to its close relationship with industries like tourism and food service, lifestyle journalism is especially prone to the influence of economic interests: Earlier studies showed that lifestyle journalists avoid writing critically about products and services that are also advertised in their media. To investigate these influences further, Folker Hanusch, Sandra Banjac and Phoebe Maares from the Department of Communication asked over 600 lifestyle journalists from Australia about their experiences with pressure from advertising and PR.

While the respondents overall denied being strongly influenced by the pressure stemming from public relations and advertising, travel, beauty and fashion journalists experienced the highest amount of pressure. Younger journalists and magazine journalists also feel more influenced by advertising and PR than others.
On average, respondents receive 30 emails with PR material every day. Even though only a quarter of the interviewed journalists see these as trustworthy, over half of them obtain information from them. 75% stated that they are transparent about sponsorships, but about half of the respondents would prefer to remain silent about products and services that do not fulfill their expectations. The same number of journalists sees close ties to people working in public relations as important – this might indicate that journalists nowadays tend to perceive PR professionals as experts rather than as a source of pressure and external influence.

"Since surveys are subject to social desirability bias, the results should be taken with a grain of salt", stresses main author Folker Hanusch. "Respondents see people from the public relations industry as useful and as friends. Therefore, it seems likely that PR has a big impact on lifestyle journalists, even if they don't admit it directly.


Publication details

Hanusch, F., Banjac, S., & Maares, P. (2019). The power of commercial influences: How lifestyle journalists experience pressure from advertising and public relations. Journalism Practice. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2019.1682942

 

 

Overall, 5314 lifestyle journalists were personally invited to take part in the survey via email. Over the course of two months, 616 of them completed the study. The response rate of 12.7% is similar to other email surveys. Image: © Lukas Bieri
Folker Hanusch is Professor of Journalism and Head of the Journalism Studies Center at the Department of Communication. His research focuses on comparative journalism research, journalism culture and lifestyle journalism.
Sandra Banjac is a pre-doctoral researcher at the Journalism Studies Center (Department of Communication). Her dissertation focuses on journalistic role conceptions and audience expectations in South Africa. She is also interested in the dissolution of journalistic boundaries, lifestyle journalism and the effects of intersectional identities on news production and news consumption.
Phoebe Maares is a pre-doctoral researcher at the Journalism Studies Center (Department of Communication). In her dissertation, she focuses on technological and economical transformations of the journalistic field. Other research interests include the dissolution of journalistic boundaries, especially in lifestyle journalism, comparative journalism studies and visual communication.