View over businesslady shoulder seated at workplace desk look at computer screen where collage of many diverse people involved at video conference negotiations activity, modern app tech usage concept

SIIA Statement: The Violence Must End


SIIA Statement: The Violence Must End

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 6, 2021) – The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal association for the software, information, and digital content industries, condemns the insurrection that occurred today at our Nation’s Capitol. 

SIIA President, Jeff Joseph, issued the following statement:

“We call on America’s leaders at the highest levels to join us in the strongest terms in condemning the seditious mob who stormed our nation’s Capitol today. America’s global leadership in innovation comes in part from our rule of law and our long-standing democratic traditions. 

“Our members strongly support our Constitutional First Amendment rights to protest and free speech. This is not what we experienced at the Capitol today – it was mob violence. We held an election. The outcome is clear and incontrovertible. Now is the time for public and private sector leaders to do just that – lead – by calling for peace, transitioning our government, demanding accountability from those who have attacked our most precious institutions, and begin addressing the divide that afflicts our great nation. This will then enable our members to do what they do best – provide critical information and technology. It is time to join together to focus on national priorities including helping businesses deal with the pandemic and the related economic uncertainty, providing the tools necessary to enable and improve our current reliance on distance learning, and promoting better outcomes in health care for all. Our nation deserves no less.”


SIIA is the only professional organization connecting more than 700 data, financial information, education technology, specialized content and publishing, and health technology companies. Our diverse members manage the global financial markets, develop software that solves today’s challenges through technology, provide critical information that helps inform global businesses large and small, and innovate for better health care and personal wellness outcomes – they drive innovation and growth. For more information, visit


FTC Delivers Stern Warning on Native Advertising and Sponsored Content

Two years after holding a workshop on “native advertising,” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) has issued an enforcement policy statement and guidance for businesses on how to utilize native or sponsored content without crossing the line into deceptive advertising.

With these new materials, the FTC maintains that not all native advertising is necessarily deceptive, but that this type of content should not be “indistinguishable from news, feature articles, product reviews, editorial, entertainment and other regular content.”  Put another way, the Commission is seeking to ensure that practices do not mask the signals consumers customarily have relied upon to recognize an advertising or promotional message.

What exactly did the FTC release?

There are two distinct document released by the Commission.  First, the Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements is essentially a summary of the underlying principles the Commission has used in enforcement actions, advisory opinions and other guidance over several decades addressing various forms of deceptively formatted advertising.  This document establishes very clearly the Commission’s policy on deceptive advertising, and it chronicles the long history of cases over the years where they have determined advertising was provided in deceptive formats, misrepresented source or nature, and provided misleading door openers or deceptive endorsements.  The message from Commission in this document is as follows:

Regardless of an ad’s format or medium of dissemination, certain principles undergird the Commission’s deceptive format policy.  Deception occurs when an advertisement misleads reasonable consumers as to its true nature or source, including that a party other than the sponsoring advertiser is the source of an advertising or promotional message, and such misleading representation is material.  In this regard, a misleading representation is material if it is likely to affect consumers’ choices or conduct regarding the advertised product or the advertisement, such as by leading consumers to give greater credence to advertising claims or to interact with advertising with which they otherwise would not have interacted.  Such misleadingly formatted advertisements are deceptive even if the product claims communicated are truthful and non-misleading.

Of course, determining what is or is not deceptive is the tricky part, as we’ve been discussing for the past couple years.   The second and more important document for publishers is, Native Advertising: A Guide for Businesses. This set of practical guidance seeks to identify which practices are acceptable, or “clear and prominent,” and to differentiate from those that are not.  The guidance contains many examples regarding when businesses should disclose that content is “native advertising,” and how to go about making clear and prominent disclosures.  Boiling down this standard, the Commission provides detailed recommendations about the “proximity and placement” of disclosures so that consumers will notice them and easily identify the content to which the disclosure applies.  For instance, the FTC has suggested that placement of disclosures “in front of or above the headline,” or in the case of an image or a graphic, that “disclosure might need to appear directly on the focal point itself.”

The Commission also clearly states that a single disclosure may not be sufficient where there are: multiple ads in a grouping (depending on the formatting if the advertisements are mixed with non-sponsored content); that disclosures should remain when native ads are republished by others and remain after consumers arrive or click on the ad; and that multimedia ads should be accompanied by a disclosure before consumers receive the advertising message to which it relates.

Perhaps most significantly, the guidance also addresses the language which should be used in disclosures, stating that these should be in “plain language that is straightforward as possible,” and “the same language as the predominant language in which the ad is presented.”  It identifies specific terms that are likely to be understood, such as:  “ad,” “advertisement,” “paid advertisement,” “sponsored advertising content,” or some variation thereof.  It also identifies that the following terms should not be used:  “promoted” or “promoted stories,” which are ambiguous and potentially misleading.  Also, terms such as “presented by [x}, “brought to you by [x],” “promoted by [x],” or “sponsored by [x]” may reasonably be interpreted by consumers that a sponsoring advertiser funded or “underwrote” but did not create or influence the content.  This is important in cases where editorial staff may work directly with advertisers or sponsors.  In those cases, it’s not unlikely that the FTC could find these labels misleading.

With respect to the application of these guidelines, the Commission made it a point to specifically state that they don’t just apply to advertisers.  If you’re a publisher, ad agency or operator of affiliate advertising networks, or “everyone who participates directly or indirectly in creating or presenting native ads should make sure that ads don’t mislead consumers about their commercial nature,” you have a responsibility to honor these guidelines.

What does this change, and what does it mean for businesses?

These documents have been out for less than 24 hours, so they’re worth a thorough review and discussion among publishers, advertisers and affected parties.   As we highlighted in our summary of the December 2011 workshop, the FTC has been enforcing deceptive advertising for decades, they were  sure to follow with specific guidance on “native” at some point, and they don’t need any new authority to crack-down on new and innovative forms of native advertising—rather  they have all of the authority they need under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”

What the Commission did yesterday was to (1) signal very clearly they have the authority and a long history of enforcement in this area, and (2) to establish some fairly precise guidance around adequate disclosures.  There are definitely some gray areas, as is usually the case with respected to complex practices, such as those where there is close collaboration between editorial staff and sponsors in the production of content, depending on how this may be placed.

After a workshop, two years of deliberation, and this set of documents, publishers and other businesses are officially on notice that the FTC is likely to ramp-up enforcement in this area.  So, a review of your current practices with respect to native advertising and sponsored content would be an excellent New Year’s resolution!


Revenue, Remote Work and More: 40% of Respondents to SIIA-Connectiv B2B Media Survey Say Business Has Returned to Pre-COVID Levels

A ray of hope in our collective slog through the COVID-19 crisis: 40 percent of respondents to a recent (and unscientific) SIIA-Connectiv survey of B2B media and information companies say revenue has already returned to pre-pandemic levels.

However, that’s tempered by the fact that the second largest group of respondents (30 percent) say they don’t know when revenues will recover (the remainder anticipate revenue bouncing back in either first half 2021 or in 2022).


While more than 90 percent of respondents said they see up to 25 percent and 50 percent of revenue coming from live events, close to 40 percent say they don’t know when live events will return, while 25 percent anticipate hosting live events in the second half of 2021 and another 25 percent say 2022 or later. Just over 10 percent expect live events to return in the first quarter of 2021

Remote Work, Return To Office

Predicting a return to the office is equally murky but most B2B media and information companies surveyed noted little change in productivity with remote work except in a few key areas.

While most respondents reported less than 25 percent of their employees worked remotely pre-COVID, 80 percent said their entire staff is currently remote during the pandemic.


That’s led to some creative policies for publishers to enable employees to balance home life and work. Industry Dive has adopted a flexible approach to supporting employees should they decide to live in another part of the U.S. during lockdown, while keeping staff connected by offering a video-based story time hour for employees’ children as well as cooking demonstration, yoga and workout sessions.

Meanwhile, just 10 percent of survey respondents say they have already started returning to the office, while over 30 percent anticipate say they will start going back in 2021.

However, more than 40 percent of respondents do not know when they will go back to a traditional office setting (respondents were equally split between saying they anticipate needing the same amount of office space they had pre-pandemic and requiring 50 percent less). The majority of respondents say remote work will still be an option when offices re-open while more than 30 percent say they are considering going remote permanently.  

Productivity Scores Well, Collaboration Suffers

Productivity with remote work has either increased or stayed the same for most disciplines (while advertising sales received the biggest knock for the inability to meet face-to-face with clients, the majority still said productivity with ad sales was better or the same, particularly as sponsors look for digital and marketing services outlets for dollars that normally would have gone to events)


Still, an increasing chorus (not just in media but business as a whole) says the main problem with remote work isn’t getting the job done (as employees on back-to-back Zoom calls from dawn till dusk can attest) but in fostering organic collaboration and on-the-job learning for junior employees.

However, the single biggest positive impact of the pandemic reported by Connectiv CEOs (and leaders at Connectiv sister associations such as SIPA and AM&P) is the way teams have pulled together. With pandemic working conditions unlikely to change significantly through the first half of 2021, enabling that trend to continue will be critical to the industry’s recovery. 

crisis mode

‘We are thinking differently’, Crisis Mode May Mean Innovation Mode

Our condo association told us that we have to get our dryer vents cleaned out this year. A neighbor put up a sign recommending we call this company for a group rate. So I called. They told me that the date they’ve set to come is Saturday, Oct. 24 because people can be home. I said, ‘Maybe that was true in olden times (like 2019), but I know I’m tied to my laptop and condo Monday through Friday and try to get away a bit on Saturdays, so that wouldn’t work. How about another day?’”
“Well, we barely have anyone signed up that day so I don’t think so—we need to fill that day first.” Argghh. 
The pandemic has brought on circumstances that require we change many of the ways and habits we have become accustomed to or to innovate and start a new habit. Here are positive examples that I’ve seen.
Double down on content. When the pandemic hit, Morning Brew launched a guide telling readers how best to work from home. It quickly became a pop-up, three-days-a-week newsletter, The Essentials, with tips on how to be active, healthy and happy during quarantine.” More than 75,000 subscribers in the first three days later, and it’s now sponsored by a cold-brew coffee company. “Another example of our mission and how we’re being a resource to readers…,” said Alex Lieberman, CEO and co-founder. “We are thinking differently about the media landscape.”
Create new reports. InsideARM, which addresses the debt industry, is promoting a free whitepaper titled Succeeding in Collections Today Requires More Agility. “Collection Operations of all sizes need to be more agile in order to handle the growing number and frequency of changes they will have to make in the NEW NORMAL.” I can hear the clicks now.
Build crisis hubs. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking for the coronavirus news hub on any site I visit. Spidell Publishing has an excellent one, replete with tax information and Spidell webinars that address that information. Almost every publisher I’ve interviewed has said their coronavirus hub has brought increased engagement—and goodwill because most are paywall-free. Of course, we all hope that nothing takes over our lives like COVID-19 has. But the success of these news hubs could provide a blueprint for future hubs around big-ticket or charitable topics.
Run virtual demos. According to a Brand United report, B2B publisher HousingWire has been hosting virtual software demo days to educate its audience of mortgage lenders and real estate professionals about technology solutions that enable business continuity during the pandemic. “We looked at the environment, we looked at what our clients were looking for, we looked at the needs of our audience, and were able to bring together a product that we’re going to repeat again and again and again that solves a lot for those needs on both sides of the equation,” said HousingWire CEO Clayton Collins.
Don’t just virtualize but redefine your events. With in-person events, we mostly traveled to a place, so the dates of the event were finite. For virtual events, there really are no time limitations. For their Virtual Divorce Conference, BVR added bonus sessions both before and after the main event. So there was a 50-minute conference preview on Aug. 27, then the actual conference Sept. 9-11, and then three 100-minute, follow-up programs Sept. 17, 24 and 30. “We feel that people are getting a lot more value this year,” said Jared Waters, training director for BVR.
Add more webinars but make them shorter. The Association of Proposal Management Professionals initiated a Power ½ Hour Webinar Series. They are free for members and $75 for non-members. For a time, they also increased their standard one webinar a month to as many as four—some of those are sponsored—knowing that members needed more information to navigate the crisis. 
Mail swag boxes to members/subscribers. Hearst Group Autos launched R&T Crew (Road & Track) Magazine in January with a subscription box geared to kids. The first box included a beanie with a designable patch, trading cards featuring different cars, socks with auto graphics and a car kids can put together and paint. Subscribers receive six boxes for $225/year. Of course, adults like cool stuff, too, especially now. If you can get a sponsor, mail out some of the swag that people would normally get at your events. Michelle Panzer of Hearst Autos said, “The goal is to find ‘white space’ in the market where you can fill a need that no one else has already identified.”
By Ronn Levine