Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Ethical Blurred Line

Hannah Kusper

How Consumers View Journalists and Advertisers

Journalists and strategic communication professionals have specific ethical standards they must follow to bring truth and build trust with their consumers. However, according to the study discussed in class, journalists and advertising practitioners are rated significantly low on their honest and ethical standards.

In fact, only one in five Americans say they trust that advertising is honest in its claims most of the time and 13 percent say they never trust the claims. Journalists rate a little higher than advertising practitioners on their honesty and ethical standards. However, these professions rank low compared to nurses, doctors and even police officers.

Ironically, journalism and advertising are based on the premise that all forms of communication should always do what is right for consumers. These professions aim to build trust and transparency to truthfully inform consumers. With ratings of low ethical standards, this causes a challenge for professionals in those fields.  

The Ethical Problem 

The increase of social media and new technology has blurred the lines between commercial communications and editorial content. Consumers are often being misled and treated unethically if they are unaware the “news” or “entertainment” they are viewing is actually advertising. This poses the ethical problem of misleading advertising since consumers attach more creditability to news content than paid advertising.

Native Advertising

Often times, when I scroll through my news feed, where I receive my news and entertainment, I see sponsored advertising posts. These advertising posts, known as native advertising, are used to catch the attention of the viewer by blending in with viewer’s original content. When I notice sponsored posts on social media, they are usually marked as an ad.

Sometimes when I am browsing social media, I see misleading content that looks like a news story but once opened says sponsored by a company. This has happened to me on Buzzfeed, since they combine advertising and editorial content on one platform. Once the article is opened, I can see the ‘sponsored content’ label that indicates this story was sponsored by a paying company. As a consumer of editorial content, I am misled into reading an article sponsored by a third-party.

Marketing Dive
The Problem with Native Advertising 

Critics of native advertising argue that it infringes on the barrier that separates the editorial and business sides of journalism. This has become more of an issue with the increasing amount of media sources, especially social media. Just open your Twitter or Facebook feed to see advertising hiding within your entertainment or news stories.

Critics also argue that native advertising must be clearly labeled because the blurred line between the two threatens the media’s creditability. However, media companies have wildly adopted native advertising as a way to catch consumers off guard by blending the ads within news and entertainment content that the viewer actually wants to see.

Build Consumer Trust Back 

If journalists and advertising practitioners want to gain their consumers'  trust, they should make an effort to clearly label all sponsored content within the editorial content. These two professions should be seen as credible since they are constantly communicating messages to consumers. To gain their consumers' trust back, media sources must work at clearly distinguishing the difference between editorial content and advertising. 

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