Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Native Advertising And Trust - Goal Is To Mislead Readers

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 27, 2014

Bob Garfield, co-host of On the Media on NPR, wrote a column in The Guardian newspaper critical of native advertising: If native advertising is so harmless, why does it rely on misleading readers?

Basic publishing ethics dictate that the fake articles be printed in clearly different type fonts and column widths, be enclosed by borderlines and be identified prominently as advertising. By contrast, as native advertising is most often practiced -- and as the Federal Trade Commission has very much noticed -- publishers allow their advertisers to run content strikingly similar in look and style to the real editorial.

The label "advertising" is almost never applied. Instead they use confusing wiggle words like "sponsored content" or, even more obscurely, "from around the web". The result is not merely deceiving to readers, it bespeaks a conspiracy of deception among publishers, advertisers and their agencies.

I agree. For newspapers to allow this type of deception, no matter how clearly labelled, produces an erosion of trust for readers. Gradually, that erosion wears away at the trust relationship between newspaper and reader.

Trust is a hard won asset and it is being sold cheaply because of the desperation that most publications are experiencing in staying in business. I've said this in several prior posts:  Native Ads Are The Worst Idea In The World - NYTimes Is Clueless

Bob Garfield understands the importance of trust. He writes: 

There is no justification for misleading readers, least of all ad efficacy. At stake is the trust earned by the publication over its entire lifespan....Under the most optimistic scenario, the money so unchastely earned will be far too little to save anyone.

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