The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of advertorial dates back to 1946 and early advertorials were stories that were assigned to staff writers at the magazines or newspapers and became common practice in the 1960s (see below). Although this practice still exists today at some publications, the crafting of the advertorial message is now more often in the hands of the client. Early advertorials were assigned to the most junior writers at these publications, included a by-line of the writer and made no distinction that the story was paid for by the marketer.
Television infomercials began proliferating in the mid-1980’s in the United States, but the advertorial format matured over time as both religious televangelists and infomercial personalities (Tony Robbins, Carleton Sheets, Kevin Trudeau) used the news/talk format to blur the lines between an infomercial and a more advertorial-based talk show. With the extensive amount of programming time to fill, television stations have opted to substitute paid advertising time for syndicated programming and so all forms of infomercials, advertorial or not continue to grow.
Radio stations also picked up the mantle in the 1990s filling weekend time periods with talk shows devoted to paid advertising infomercials. Some of these shows run live at an individual station or even syndicated, appear on the program schedules of the station and can even be hosted by regular station personalities. The advertorial slant of these programs are woven into the fabric of many stations especially religious stations where their appearance is often viewed as a “values-based” endorsement of the products or services discussed.