New York Times food writer Kim Severson noticed what seemed like fishy advertorial at play in Condé Nast’s new Gourmet Live iPad app.
The app features drink recipes from mixologiest Elayne Duke, who is also a “Spirits Ambassador” for the alcohol company Diageo, which happens to own all of the brands of liquor used in her recipes (for example Ciroc, Ketel Citroen, Bulleit bourbon and Don Julio tequila). Ms. Duke insisted that she chose those brands because they work best in the drinks she created and for no other reason. She told Ms. Severson that she is not paid for mentioning Diageo brands.
Elizabeth Spiers, an executive producer for the app (also known as a founding editor of Gawker), told Ms. Severson that she didn’t know about Ms. Duke’s affiliation with the liquor company.
She also said that Gourmet Live had no business relationship with Diageo. “When we do have sponsored content it will be very clear,” she said, calling it a matter of credibility to make it explicit when editorial content has been produced in cooperation with advertisers. “If we don’t do that, our readers won’t trust us.”
Ms. Spiers is right, and if this was an honest mistake, fine. It isn’t the first time that a contributor to a magazine has had some untoward corporate connection that wasn’t immediately obvious. But it seems especially important for Gourmet Live, which is the first venture in a new area for magazine publishers, to stay sparkling clean. Whoever is overseeing the app really should know who his or her contributors are becuase that’s what distinguishes a slapdash, freelancer-based new media launch from a quality new product by an established brand.