Here you see an internal Time Inc. spreadsheet that was used to rank and evaluate "writer-editors" at SI.com. (Time Inc. provided this document to the Newspaper Guild, which represents some of their employees, and the union provided it to us.) The evaluations were done as part of the process of deciding who would be laid off. Most interesting is this ranking criteria: "Produces content that [is] beneficial to advertiser relationship." These editorial employees were all ranked in this way, with their scores ranging from 2 to 10.
Other criteria include "Quality of Writing," "Impact of Stories/Newsworthiness," "Audience/Traffic," and "Social." Look, I'm not so naive as to think that advertorial content is the only reason that readers have abandoned magazines, but it certainly hasn't helped. Readers aren't stupid. They can detect when a magazine has an agenda, especially when that agenda serves their advertisers. And press-release journalism just isn't interesting. If advertisers want to reach readers in print, they should make great print advertisements; all this scurrilous behind-the-scenes kissy-face might help keep the bottom line artificially afloat, but it sure as hell isn't going to convince anyone to pick up a fucking magazine.