Where Did Editorial Content Go?

For over a decade I was privileged to steer the editorial content of Vallarta Lifestyles magazine and other publications from the renowned editorial group founded by John Youden some 30 years ago. During that time, several collaborators came and went, but the core group of writers, photographers, graphic designers, salespeople and administrative team that propelled the publications forward remained pretty much the same, relying on the strength of continuity to produce products of increasing quality and relevance.

A clear boundary was established between editorial and advertising. That is, the publications we produced were created with a basic principle: let the editorial content be compelling so that the readers would become interested in the publications, and consequently take notice of the advertisements published in their pages. That said, both the editorial and advertising departments worked in complete synergy. 

For example, if an advertisement for a new jewelry shop was scheduled to appear in the next edition of the magazine, we wouldn’t write about the shop. Instead, we would create a complementary article about jewelry shopping in Puerto Vallarta and mention the shop as an afterthought, providing a connection and context between editorial and advertising. If the editorial team learned that a salesperson was trying to close a deal with a prospective client, we would find creative ways to complement the client’s business with an article without writing what is known in the trade as an advertorial. Keeping advertising and editorial separate allowed us to build credibility in our publications. The editorial department never made a promise to an advertiser to mention this or that in an article.

By the way, the editorial, sales and production teams were properly compensated. Yes, writers, too.

Were there gray areas or exceptions? Of course there were. But we always strived to maintain editorial integrity by not relinquishing editorial control to the advertiser—a big no-no. Unfortunately, this is hardly the way things seem to go with many local print and online publications, in English and Spanish, where there is increasingly less understanding of the subtle difference between what is newsworthy and what is promotional. A couple of examples, based on the way I was mentored:

Newsworthy: New English bookstore opens in town, the only one with a dedicated children’s section.
Promotional: New English bookstore offering 20% off during the first month of operation.

Newsworthy: Grammy Award-winning Bossa-Nova crooner Joe Blaux to perform in Puerto Vallarta for the first time.
Promotional: Incredible! Fantastic! Fabulous! Incomparable Joe Blaux and his silky smooth voice will envelop your nostrils and other body parts tomorrow night at 8 pm.

Now, everybody’s got to make a buck and everybody is entitled to their own rules. But it’s quite disheartening to learn of local publications that not only do not pay their writers; but frown on their mentioning specific businesses in their articles when said businesses do not happen to be on the publication’s advertiser list (like mentioning the name of a business in an article is going to make a substantial difference in a salesperson’s commission earnings or publication revenue!). Again, there is a fine line between advertising and editorial, but it takes a creative team to have the mindset to think outside the box and find effective ways to work together to disseminate news and entice readers to consume products and services advertised in a publication.

My brief stint as Interim Editor at the Vallarta Tribune this summer served as a very powerful reminder of the editorial principles I learned from Vallarta Lifestyles Publishing Group founder, John Youden. It also served as the catalyst for me to repurpose this website into a source of articles, information and news for the local English-speaking community. In my book, new business openings and other commonplace events are the fabric of our community, so expect to continue reading these types of articles moving forward. In my book, advertisers have no place making editorial determinations, so here’s some good news: this website will continue to be 100% advertiser free moving forward.

Do you know of new business openings that cater to our community of English-speaking locals? Are there topics about your life in Puerto Vallarta that you’d like to see covered here? Please let me know!

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