Monday, October 30, 2017

Native Advertising: Is it Ethical?

Lauren Schumacker

Why are advertisements changing?

There are many online publications allowing different types of advertising from their sponsors that many journalists do not think is ethical. These new advertising techniques are emerging because of an increase in software that blocks consumers from seeing ads in order to decrease the amount of cellular data they are using. Therefore, normal advertisements are becoming less effective. In addition to this, many online publications are finding that their readers are simply clicking through advertisements, therefore making them less effective.

What are the new advertising techniques?

Advertisers have begun to get creative in order to have more success with their online advertising. A new technique called native advertising, creates an advertisement that looks as if it is a part of the webpage. For example, The Atlantic allowed a an advertisement about Scientology to run on their website. It looked as if this article was created by The Atlantic themselves, causing them to receive a lot of backlash.

Why is this a problem?

Although different companies are only wanting to get maximum views on their content, many journalists view these new advertising practices as deceptive and unethical. This example reflects poorly on The Atlantic and all members of the staff. It is difficult to keep a good relationship with advertisers who fund your publication, while also trying to maintain editorial independence and credibility to your audience.

Buzz Feed is arguably one of the worst offenders of this unethical advertising technique. This video explains how Buzz Feed has become so successful by using these deceptive ads in order to increase web page traffic, and trick their readers into viewing more advertising content than content.

Many editors are defending their publications by saying that the ads are marked, allowing the reader to tell the difference. However, it is clear that many consumers are unaware of these advertising techniques and are usually unable to differentiate between actual news produced by the publication, and advertisements that are angled to look like news stories.

I am a journalism student. Therefore I am aware of the various issues surrounding new forms of advertising. However, I refuse to believe that the small gray words underneath a headline that read, "sponsored" are enough to allow the common reader to understand that the article they are reading is not content produced by the original website and is intended to persuade them. This is deceptive and this is wrong.

Let's look at the numbers

According to, a company that helps businesses build their presence through native advertising, consumers looked at advertisements 2% more than actual editorial content posted by the publisher, and they stayed on these web pages for longer lengths of time.

Native ads have created an 18% increase in purchases when companies adapted this new technique over the original banner ads that most consumers overlooked.

In fact, 25% more consumers viewed the native ads than the banner ads.

If readers do not want to pay for news, and advertisers are no longer gaining from regular online advertisements because of new advertisement blocking software, then how should publications fund their business? Native advertising is deceptive, but it is what many publications are forced to allow in order to be successful. I look forward to seeing what advertisers will come up with next if consumers eventually begin to see and overlook these new advertising techniques as well.

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