I'm looking for a word to describe an article published in a newspaper that's written by a shill. Basically a word that describes the article as blatant over the top praise without perspective. I know 'advertorial' might work but I'm looking for an adjective that describes a panegyric that isn't genuine.

  • Even asskissery, perhaps.
    – TylerH
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 13:31
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jun 7, 2014 at 20:52

14 Answers 14


Meretricious, meaning attractive in a way that is false or that lacks integrity (an extension of the older meaning of the word, meaning "relating to prostitution").

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    I don't think this is quite on the mark. I would think something like sycophantic would be closer to the truth.
    – Robusto
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 16:15
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    Meretricious, and a Happy New Year!
    – MT_Head
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:24
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    @Robusto - I'm not sure I think it's better, but "sycophantic" is a reasonable alternative. If you think it's better than the currently accepted answer, why bury it in a comment instead of suggesting it as an answer? Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:59

Astroturfing is often used for the online version of this, maybe for paper newspapers as well. Astroturf is a brand of artificial grass, so this is an artificial grassroots article.

Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message (e.g. political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from grassroots participant(s). Source: Wikipedia


Advertorial is what I call them. Or puff pieces.


That sounds like your typical plug.


Popular recently, and with a mildly humorous connotation (or at least origin), is "astroturfing." It's a play on "grassroots" - instead of getting actual sua sponte testimonials or support, you plant fake support. Wikipedia puts the origin back to 1985, but I first saw it in the IEEE Spectrum a couple of years ago. http://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/tools-toys/the-language-of-online-life


"Propaganda" or simply "Marketing".


I'd call it a "promotional piece". It has the intended meaning of blatantly biased advertising and the added advantage of people knowing what it means.


Personally, I'm fond of the noun 'puffery'. If you prefer an adjective, perhaps 'effusive'.

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    Effusive does not imply falsehood, I can be completely impartial and still offer effusive praise.
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 2:00

Wikipedia has been debating the issue and was describing it as "paid advocacy." I'd suggest that term or "paid advocate."


"Sockpuppeting" would fit perfectly, but only in cases where the (false) praise is being given at the direct direction of the praisee.

  • IMO, sockpuppeting is more like the praise being written by the "praisee" pseudonymously.
    – Kaz Dragon
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 10:14

Paul Graham calls that kind of subtle PR article a submarine. I haven't heard that term used widely outside the tech-heavy crowd that reads his essays though.

  • The linked article uses "submarine" as a description for the whole PR industry ("lurking beneath the news"). I don't see it used for a specific kind of planted article. Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 4:28
  • True, I guess I've just read the term being used that way in forum comments.
    – Philip
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 8:05

This isn't 100% spot-on, but it's at least worth considering:

obsequious - Excessively deferential to authority

"The writer's praise of his editor was nakedly obsequious."


You could also consider claptrap, which refers to pretentious but insincere or empty language.


You might also consider rhetorical:

rhetoric : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable

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