Mixing journalism with advertising: dangerous for consumers?

This article about buying life insurance on the local Patch website is an excellent example of how media is blurring the line between journalism and advertising. It’s a great business strategy but perhaps not so great for consumers.

The article points out a very basic and valuable strategy on buying life insurance or any other consumer product: do a little research and buy the best product available to you not just the first product that was offered through TV advertisements or otherwise. (Television advertising using paid celebrity endorsers has traditionally been the primary marketing tool of final expense life insurance sellers). There’s nothing wrong with that; just be aware that a better deal may be available. This is solid advice.

My concern focuses on consumer protection and compliance with state insurance laws about advertising of life insurance. My first impression is that the article may violate some state laws about disclosure of paid endorsements. But we have no way of knowing because we do not know the financial arrangements between Patch and the parties mentioned.

Nevertheless, I think that mixing journalism with product reviews and planning strategies is very valuable. After all, this is largely what I do for a living and I do so with a clear and carefully worded written disclosure of my interests. However, it is dangerous to mix journalism with advertising when consumers are not clearly informed of the line between them.


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