On advertorials and “advertarticles”

By Stuart E. Mirvis, MD, FACR
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Dr. Mirvis is the Editor-in-Chief of this journal and Professor of Radiology, Diagnostic Imaging Department, University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD.

A recent letter to Applied Radiology brought my attention to the November 2003 issue. 1 The issue, the letter pointed out, contained an "advertorial." The writer opined that there is really no such thing: there are ads and there are editorials (or articles). This advertisement was produced on colored background, but was laid out in the format of an article using the same font and including an introduction and concluding paragraph. At the top of the piece was a banner titled "advertorial." While most readers probably recognized they were reading an ad, it might have been possible to mistake the material as peer-reviewed with unbiased scientific credibility and, thus, give it more credence. It was certainly not our intention to deceive anyone about the nature of the ad, but our appreciation of the potential for misunderstanding and scrutiny could have been tighter.

Increasingly, magazines and journals present advertising material in such a fashion as to make the distinction between article and ad vague at best. Sometimes these are multipage sections that point out, usually in small type, that the material is indeed a "special" advertising section and not an article meeting the standards established for publication. Almost weekly, the local version of a popular national news magazine that I receive features magnificent multipage "articles" describing the wonders of the University of Maryland Medical Center written to attract patients. These sections are not at all fictional (that's one for the CEO), but are written by our advertising company with a very definite flattering bias. They could easily be mistaken for articles, an error that advertisers would certainly not protest.

The goal of Applied Radiology continues to be the presentation of state-of-the-art review articles written by experts in their specialties, technology updates, consideration of practice issues, discussions concerning controversies in our field, and a steady stream of both routine and challenging case reports. Applied Radiology is provided without charge to most North American radiologists who wish to receive it. Naturally, there is some friction between the goal of satisfying advertisers in this widely distributed journal and raising revenues to keep the presses rolling, and at the same time be true to our editorial guidelines by never merging product information in ads with journal articles.

Both goals can be accomplished. In the future, all advertisements will be clearly and unequivocally demarcated by a different typeface, layout, and color. Our advertisers are welcome to present as much data about their products as they wish and to document that information with referenced scientific studies as appropriate. Articles that consider the experience of investigators using new devices or techniques will be permitted to publish their observations given that any relationship with the product vendor is made clear and that there is a balanced presentation considering any strengths and drawbacks of the product or technique. It is the hope at Applied Radiology that these guidelines will remove any potential for misunderstanding or confusion concerning the source of written material in Applied Radiology . No "advert- articles" allowed! We hope the ads will keep coming to fund the valuable articles our journal brings to our readers, but we will not compromise the quality of our publication just to pay the phone bill.

1 Letter to the editor from Brian D. Coley, MD, Assistant Chief, Department of Radiology, Columbus Children's Hospital, Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology and Pediatrics, The Ohio State University School of Medicine, Columbus, OH.

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On advertorials and “advertarticles”.  Appl Radiol. 

March 11, 2004
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