Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Sponsored Content: Will Online Journalism Ever Be the Same?

Nathan Lors

With consumers of online media trained to ignore banner ads after years of exposure to thousands of them, the way that advertisers present their marketing online was bound to change sooner or later. The internet is now used by a huge portion of the population all over the world, and there is a lot of money to be had by allowing companies to advertise on their websites. The landscape of online advertising has been changing rapidly for years. This is where the inception of sponsored content came into play, it was intended to solve the problem of consumers ignoring online advertising by 
giving them something that looked nothing like the advertising they were accustomed to.

What is sponsored content?

Advertisers have been placing ads in newspapers for years, and sponsored content has been no stranger on sites like Facebook. So what is the difference with sponsored content on news websites? Sponsored content, nativeadvertising, or advertorial, is advertising paid for by a company. This is not just a regular advertisement though; it is somewhat disguised to fit in with the other editorial content that the news site produces. These advertorials are meant to be clearly labeled that they are in fact advertising so that the reader of the news could not mistake it for the normal unbiased content that is typically posted to the news site. However, much of the time these articles appear in the same format and type face as the rest of the editorial content on a news site. This is why it could be detrimental to 
news websites and journalism as an institution.

Are advertiser’s trying to fool readers?

Most of the time the intention of these editors and advertisers is not to deceive the readers that the editorial is written by a journalist without any influence from an outside source. Often times the brand is clearly associated with the content, so that readers are not misled. The goal of most of these campaigns is just to provide a platform for people to read these advertisements, albeit in a way that is unconventional to most readers. This could change the way that people read advertisements because typically most readers of news websites would not read a normal editorial with cynicism, however they do when they are digesting a banner ad, commercial, billboard and so on. That could be dangerous for journalism because it could deteriorate the already low level of trust we have from the general public.

Is sponsored content good or bad for journalism?

In theory native advertising is a great idea. News makers add content to their lineup, and also bring in some much needed revenue from their advertisers to say some good graces about their products, but there is more to the story than that. If native advertising affects the overall content of the reporting or incites a bias in the writing, it will be devastating to the field. Readers will not return to these news websites if they think that their content is just another paid advertisement telling them what to think or buy. These paid for editorial pieces still need to add value to online news and inform people with thoughtful, unbiased content, otherwise it could be very dangerous to include with other news.

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