The Atlantic Says ‘We Screwed Up’ in Publishing Scientology Advertorial

A fascinating Internet discussion is unfolding in the wake of The Atlantic‘s publishing of sponsored online content from the Church of Scientology. The negative response to the ad—and the impression that only positive comments were initially allowed to be posted below the article—has led to a retreat and apology from the publisher, one of the most aggressive players in the native ad space.

It was never meant to go down this way. “The rule we have here [is] … we are not trying to fool the reader, ever,” publisher Jay Lauf told Publishing Executive last year. “… As long as content is properly labeled and signaled as content from an advertiser there is no reason an advertiser cannot validly use those same tools.”

As this latest episode shows, it’s not that simple—or is it? In a Forbes article, Jeff Bercovici argues Scientology should be no more or less controversial an advertiser than many other multinationals (e.g. Shell) burnishing their brand with sponsored content online.

Where do you draw the line? Share comments with us below.

– James Sturdivant

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  • Rob Spooner

    Where should we draw the line? It’s like pornography. Maybe I can’t explain exactly why but Scientology is on the outside of the line.