I first discovered and tweeted in April that some of the most popular architecture publications including Dezeen, Archdaily, Archinect and others are selling advertorial opportunities to advertisers in various ad marketplaces.
Native advertising, or advertorials, are basically articles paid for by companies where the text and images are provided by the advertiser then pushed out as if they are normal articles.
So what are they offering and charging?
Starting with Dezeen, they offer an 800 word article with up to 20 images, pushed directly to the homepage for US$5,222 (AUD$7150). They promote that their advertorial will likely generate 3,300 visitors.
For an additional US$1,053 (AUD$1,442) they will add a video and US$2,106 (AUD$2,884) per social media post (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) to millions of their followers.
Shockingly, Dezeen also advertise that the deal includes 3 Dofollow backlinks. These are the kinds of links that will boost the SEO position of any site that receives them.
If Google finds out about this, Dezeen and any companies who pay for the links could be in BIG trouble and see their search traffic decline significantly.
Next up is Archdaily, who sell a 500 word article with 20 images for US$6,885 (AUD$9,427), which will be read by approximately 6,100 visitors who discover the article on the ArchDaily homepage.
ArchDaily don't offer social media reposts, but they will write the article for you for $100 if you tell them what you're promoting.
Like Dezeen, ArchDaily are also breaking the rules by selling backlinks, with 3 Dofollow links included.
Finally, Archinect sell 3000 word articles with 7 images for $US938 (AUD$1,284).
They don't offer social, Dofollow backlinks or much else. Making the deal even worse, they only suggest that 709 visitors will read the article.
Who is paying for these advertorials?
As far as I can tell, architecture firms aren't currently paying to place their projects on these sites, but my gut feeling is that we'll see it soon enough from the ones who can afford it.
Communications firms that represent the largest global offices are already purchasing stories on behalf of their competition and awards clients, so if it works, I expect to see large architecture firms paying for press eventually if they aren't already.
I guess that from their perspective, it makes a lot more sense to just pay for your project to be published instead of paying $500 an hour for a publicist to do it the old fashioned way (by crafting an interesting story and building media relationships) - especially if it means you can control every detail of the copy by cutting out the journalist altogether.
So if architects aren't paying, who is?
What seems to be happening a lot right now is that product suppliers are paying media outlets to publish architecture projects that use their products as if the buildings are being recognised in their own right. Even the Vatican is in on the action!
And here is the corresponding Instagram post.
In the example below, Australian studio SJB is the subject of a paid repost by Vitrosca glass on the Dezeen account. It attracted 7,022 likes.
You can see the corresponding article here.
And here we see the University of Ottawa by Diamond Schmitt Architects promoted by Rieder Facades.
As you can see, the posts above mention the paid partnership, but what about this one advertising a Samsung TV? No mention of the partnership in the post header.
Lousy standards like the Samsung post just bring every post and article into question.
How can architects take advantage of this new trend?
Like the SJB example, it might be a worth a shot to approach the manufacturers of the products you use in your projects to see if they are interested in paying to get your project published in an advertorial.
Already I've heard that popular kitchen and white-goods retailers, along with other name brands are offering architects with bigger social media audiences discounts for their projects if they mention them on Instagram.
You could look at that as a conflict of interest, or a great perk for the architect's client if it saves their budget.
Either way, there is no shortage of ways that opportunistic firms can take advantage of the advertorial takeover once you understand what's happening out there.
From the architect's perspective, being published has always been considered an enormous milestone - so it's weird to find out that you could write an article about one of your projects, attach 20 photos, pay for the placement using Paypal and have the project appear automatically on Dezeen's homepage and Instagram account within 7 days.
All of this pay-to-win publishing begs the question, does getting published mean as much as it used to if the press can be bought and readers can't really tell the difference?
Does a lengthy press page on an architect's website mean the same thing that it did five years ago?
While advertorial has (justifiably) become the norm for publishers as they seek new sources of revenue, it just seems is a kind of misleading and deceptive, don't you think?