Media’s Newest Struggle: Native Advertising

by Chance Hoener

A definition of Native Advertising at DiGFestival courtesy of Stilgherrian on Flickr.

A definition of Native Advertising at DiGFestival courtesy of Stilgherrian on Flickr.

The news and advertising have always had a sticky relationship. The news needs advertising, especially with publications relying more and more on advertising income, but the news is still the news, and it has to stay objective. A fine line is drawn between keeping advertisers happy and promoting their products, and with the introduction of “native advertising,” that line is getting finer. What is native advertising exactly? The phrase has been thrown around a lot lately. According to Wikipedia – the simplest way to grab a definition – native advertising is “an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience.” It goes on to say that the goal is to make paid advertising “less intrusive” and “appear more consistent with other media in the user’s universe.” In Todd Wasserman’s Mashable article, he gives different perspectives about what native advertising entails. He cites the CEO of Deep Focus, Ian Schafer, as comparing native advertising to the advertorials of the past. I don’t know about you, but that concerns me. The line is drawn at using advertising that looks like content, or having stories that are sponsored by a brand. The media is meant to serve the reader, not its advertisers. The publishing industry has taken a dangerous turn with native advertising and it could be dangerous for the news. If you’ve got a little time, and enjoy witty takes on serious issues, check out John Oliver’s piece on native advertising: The next time you’re reading a Buzzfeed article about the 21 best pumpkin spice recipes that is sponsored by Starbucks, think about how this could change media forever. What do you all think? Is native advertising and okay way for publications to support themselves, or will it be dangerous to journalism?

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8 responses to “Media’s Newest Struggle: Native Advertising

  1. I like your argument here. I kind of think that native advertising also manipulates readers in a way, because they’re giving you content to direct you to a specific conclusion, when readers should really be able to make their own conclusions. I think native advertising is just how advertisers have been able to keep up with increased media usage and less print readership, and it probably won’t fade any time soon. However, I think if we’re conscious that it’s happening and we’re looking for the signs, we can make informed choices about how we process the information.

  2. I agree with you that it attempts to lead the reader to a certain conclusion. That is a great point that I did not make. I also agree that if we stay informed we can make better informed choices. I also think that now, the struggle as journalists is to also make sure that our audience stays informed about what native advertising is, so that they can make the same kind of informed decisions.

  3. I agree with both you and Sarah on this one. One of my favorite magazines, NYLON, has plenty of this. For example, in their most recent issue, there is an ad for America’s Next Top Model, but what’s misleading is that the photo editing, page layout, and even the font choices are exactly what is used in the rest of the magazine. The upper right corner has the tiny words “Advertisement” written on it, but someone flipping through this magazine wouldn’t be able to tell that this ad is any different from the rest of the content in the magazine. I think it’s a tricky thing to do, and it gives a reader more responsibility to read their articles closer, but this shouldn’t be on them. We, as journalists, need to remain objective and realize how these ads can affect our readers.

  4. I have to say I disagree with your post. I work as a content management intern for a diabetes startup website, and one of my jobs this summer was to look into content advertising or ways I could promote my company through writing things like blog posts and freelanced magazine pieces. All of my articles were well-researched, fact-checked, and they provided helpful, and insightful information for people struggling to manage their diabetes. The only difference between my works and others was that I included small blurbs about how my company could further help patients with diabetes. I don’t think this makes my articles any less credible, just like how Starbucks sponsoring a Buzzfeed post about Pumpkin Spiced Lattes didn’t make it any less enjoyable for me to read. As long as advertisers aren’t altering the news or misleading people in any way, I think this is a mutually-beneficial relationship between news outlets and advertisers. Ads are everywhere anyway–it’s up to consumers to be informed.

    • I like your view, Lauren, and I definitely see where you are coming from. I guess I would say that my issue isn’t that the articles are any less credible or any less researched. Mine is more of a question of will this lead to advertisers influencing what journalists are writing about. In my opinion journalists should pitch what they think their readers will want to hear and write about it. They shouldn’t write about pumpkin spice because Starbucks said they would sponsor them for it. If it is want they want to write about, that is great. In your case, you were writing content for the company and the readers would know that. Buzzfeed and other publications aren’t employed by Starbucks, that is the difference in my eyes. I do understand your view, though, and I think it is a valid one.

  5. I agree that the line between true stories and ads is getting thinner and thinner. I am okay with the articles on BuzzFeed being sponsored by companies because they are small little article that don’t really have any meaning. But the bigger stories in print magazines that I have seen do bother me. There will be what I think are stories in my InStyle but when I look a the bottom corner I can barely make out the word, “Advertisement.” Those types of stories d frustrate me a lot and make me question the publication.

  6. I think that the issue of native advertising in print publications runs a thin line. Although magazines rely almost solely on their advertising partners to support them financially, I find the practice of trying to blend the ad into the actual content of the magazine as their way of tricking their customers, which I don’t think is alright. I think that affects the credibility and trustworthiness of the publication, and it’s a method I hope will be regulated in the future.

  7. I agree with what Lauren said about this being a mutually beneficial relationship in most cases. However, I do understand your point too. I think journalists should stay away from writing content for advertisements as it takes away from their credibility and makes them seem biased. If it’s someone working for the company or an advertiser writing the content I don’t have a problem with it.

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