American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME)




Magazines are successful only if readers trust the information and advice given. This trust can be broken all too easily—by either perception or reality. ASME has created these guidelines to ensure that the clear distinction between advertising and editorial content is never blurred.

In October 1996, ASME announced the following standard for editorial independence, in an effort to affirm the highest standards in magazine journalism, and to underscore magazine editors' traditional independence from untoward commercial or other extra-journalistic pressures.

The chief editor of any magazine must have final authority over the editorial content, words and pictures that appear in the publication.

Editors and their publishers have an obligation to enforce and maintain the best journalistic practices. If, for example, a reader gets the impression that an article was created or altered to satisfy an advertiser or special interest group, that reader is likely to discount the content of the article and distrust the publication—and the brand.

In September 1997, Magazine Publishers of America and ASME issued a joint statement about notifying advertisers of editorial content prior to publication.

As editors and publishers, we strongly believe that editorial integrity and credibility are the magazine industry's most important assets. As a result, we believe that magazines should not submit table of contents, text or photos from upcoming issues to advertisers for prior review. We are confident that editors and publishers can inform advertisers about a publication's editorial environment or direction without engaging in practices that may at the very least create the appearance of censorship and ultimately could undermine editorial independence.

Since the guidelines cannot possibly cover every situation that arises, we hope that all magazine editors and publishers will respect ASME's guidelines in spirit and in practice. Due to the volume of inquiries in recent years, ASME cannot pass judgment or grant approval on proposed content before publication. If an editor or publisher is not sure whether an ad or article complies with these guidelines, ASME suggests proceeding with caution-when in doubt, slug it "advertisement" or "promotion," as detailed in the guidelines. Make sure it is easy for readers to tell what kind of content it is.

In order to ensure that online entities with an editorial component also maintain the highest standards, ASME and Magazine Publishers of America jointly issued "Best Practices for Digital Media" in August 2000.

Please note: Any magazine that willfully or repeatedly violates these guidelines will be declared ineligible for National Magazine Awards, and the editor ultimately responsible for the violations (if a member of ASME) may be expelled from the organization.





The layout, design and typeface of advertising pages should be distinctly different from the publication's normal layout, design and typefaces. Any page of advertising that contains text or design elements that have an editorial appearance must be clearly and conspicuously identified with the words "advertising," "advertisement" or "promotion" horizontally at or near the center of the top of the page in type at least equal in size and weight to the publication's normal editorial body type face.

At no time should a magazine's name, logo or editorial staff be used in a way that suggests editorial endorsement of any advertiser. Specifically:

(a) No advertisement or purely promotional contest may be promoted on the cover of the magazine or included in the editorial table of contents. This includes cover stickers and other onserts.

(b) In general, the publication's name or logo should not appear on any advertising pages except when advertising the magazine's own products and services. The magazine's name or logo may be used to label its own multi-advertiser sections (e.g., classified ad pages, seasonal gift guides), merchandising joint promotions, and contests conceived or controlled by the publisher, but those pages must carry the words "advertising," "advertisement" or "promotion," as detailed in Guideline No. 1.

Advertising pages should not be placed adjacent to related editorial material in a manner that implies editorial endorsement of the advertised product or services, including advertising that features the same celebrity or product image as the cover image. No advertising copy should state or imply advertiser control or improper involvement in the preparation of editorial materials in an issue.

Similarly, an advertiser's name or logo may not be used on any editorial pages to suggest advertising sponsorship of those pages, nor should any editorial page be labeled as "sponsored" or "brought to you" by an advertiser. If an advertiser's name appears on an editorial page to indicate sponsorship of special awards or events, its logo should not be used.

On editorial pages that contain free give-aways, the copy should make it clear that it is an editorial page and not a promotional one. If an advertiser or outside organization provides the prize or prizes for an editorial contest, sweepstakes or free offer featured on editorial pages, the editorial copy must not suggest an endorsement of that advertiser's products or services and must not feature the advertiser's or product's logo. The contest must remain under the editors' sole control, and the participating advertiser may not be involved in the contest judging or any aspect of the editorial presentation.

Names of products (brand names) should not appear on the cover when promoting deals, contests, discounts and free give-aways.

Advertising and marketing staff should not use editorial titles (e.g. merchandising editor).

In order for the publication's chief editor to have the opportunity to monitor compliance with the guidelines, advertising pages should be made available to the editor in ample time for review and to recommend any necessary changes.