Thursday, October 29, 2015

Can It Work?

Jillian Kata

Sponsored advertising is a controversial topic across the media and business spectrum. The problem sparks because advertisers want to expand on their innovative ways to reach a consumer with their ads.  The new way to do this is through native advertising, which allows them to reach a consumer about a product sub consciously by keeping them interesting and telling a story.

On the other hand, journalists want content to remain informational and truthful.   They don’t want to feel that their audience is being deceived by advertisements blending into news stories.  Let me break it down for you:

Advertisers Perspective
With the digital age changing and improving as quickly as ever, advertisers are faced with more and more pressure to keep up.  The traditional ways of advertising no longer reach consumers the way they used to.  People expect advertisements to be more engaging, innovative, and tailored to consumer desires.  This is why advertisers began diving into native advertising.  

Lon Otrembais the CEO of a company called Bidtellect, which is a platform for publishers and advertisers to buy and sell native ads. In an article on Business Insider Otrembais described why advertisers are rooting for sponsored content: “After billions of dollars of invested capital and countless hours of engineering… consumers are showing a strong willingness to engage with native ads, particularly when compared with banner ads. People like native ads. And importantly, they're now scalable.”  Although this is a breakthrough for advertisers, it manages to have many setbacks for journalists.

Journalists Perspective
The journalism business has also had its ups and downs when adjusting to the digital age. But one thing is sure; the ethics of journalism emphasizes the importance of journalists telling the truth.   A story loses its audience if the facts reported are misconstrued.  

This is a big reason why journalists are against native advertising.  They believe that sponsored content is deceiving to their audience and misplaces the trust of their industry. The Wall Street Journal editor in chief, Gerry Baker, commented on this controversy saying: “If [advertisers] manipulate the digital or print operations of those news organizations, it makes the reader confused as to what is news and what is advertising, and the reader’s trust, the very reason that those advertisers want to advertise in those news organizations, goes away.”  

Although sponsored content may be telling the truth, it can change the perception the reader has about its content.  If they are unaware that it’s an ad, it can skew their understanding of its purpose.  Although there are many negatives to native advertising for journalists, it can bring in more money for the news industry if they are being paid to include ads as a part of their content.

So can it work? I believe so, but, only on a small scale. There must be a development of guidelines and rules to be strictly enforced and followed.  There must remain a clear line between a journalistic piece and an advertisement.   

My biggest hope is that sponsored content will increase revenue for the news industry and keep it alive as it competes within the digital world.  It’s essential that journalists and advertisers find a medium that can deliver the results advertisers are expecting, while assuring that the article follows the ethical guidelines of journalism. 


  1. Like the use of the business and journalist perspective. Think it is a great point of how the ethics of journalism come into play with native advertisement. And how journalist are for the truth, but native advertisement, can be deceitful. The Neil Sharman article was interesting, thought it was interesting how 28% of American and United Kingdom news audiences who could recall seeing native advertising online said it made them feel less positive about the news organization carrying it.

  2. Robert Vollman.
    I agree with your comments here, advertisements are taking over so many sites online that it's hard to tell them apart sometimes from the real deal. It's an even bigger problem if those same ads are being combined with news sites that tell actual stories instead of ones that are meant to sell products. Hopefully everyone online will learn how to balance them out the right way and in the process stay out of trouble of angering the public.