Monday, October 26, 2015

Is Journalistic Integrity Being Sacrificed Due to Native Advertising?

Nicole Mahdavi

It is common to see various forms of advertisement along side the news story you are reading whether it be print or online. Today, some of the stories you may be reading might actually be sponsored content paid for by an outside company.  The content that is being produced is called, "native advertising."   

Even though it is cited that the content the reader is reading is in fact sponsored, it begins to damper the trust that has been built between the news outlet and its consumers. As a journalist we are to report on what we believe to be the truth and present it to our readers to inform them of whatever it may be that is going on, however, giving  advertisers access to our readers in exchange for money and allowing them to bribe our readers to buy their products would be considered unethical.Over the past several years, online media outlet, "Buzzfeed", has been extremely successful with gaining readers even though essentially everything on their site is Native advertising. Buzzfeed intelligently incorporates the advertisements by turning them into stories or quizzes that apply to and attract readers. 

In an article titled, "Does Buzzfeed Know the Secret?" it discusses, " BuzzFeed’s model, known in the industry as “native advertising,” has caused some trepidation among traditional ad agencies, which see its potential to cut out their intermediary role. It’s also the sort of intermingling of editorial content and business" (NY MAG 2013). 

With there being no middleman to look over what the advertisers are actually producing and presenting to the readers a lot of issues can arise.

According to the Washington Post's " Sponsored Content Confusion: PolitiFact R.I Raps Buzzed for Toothpaste Thing"  Buzzfeed was getting a lot of slack from the public for one of their "features" on its site titled "11 Awesome Facts You Never Knew about Rhode Island" that made claims, "In Providence R.I., it's illegal to sell toothpaste and a toothbrush to the same customer on a Sunday." (Washington Post 2013)

Buzzfeed's defense to the inaccurate information that they provided readers with was that, "It's part of Buzzfeed's formidable sponsored-content offensive. The site confirms that no editorial staffers were involved in producing the item." (Washington Post 2013).  

A series of ethical questions have been raised when it comes to journalistic integrity and the allowed use of native advertisement.  According to an article titled. "Storytelling Ads May Be Journalism's New Peril", one of the ethical dilemmas bought up with this form of advertisement is the fact that many news media outlets are " Allowing P.R. firms and advertisement agencies direct access to their content management systems and allowing them to publish directly to their site" (NY Times 2013).

Washington Post July 2013

Native Advertisement is providing leeway for media outlets to now point the finger on someone else for their mistakes. Even if the content is being made by the advertisers themselves Buzzed should still be looking over everything that is being made public on their site, and therefore should be held responsible.

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