Posted by Tom Foremski - August 6, 2014
In another demonstration that the management of the New York Times doesn't understand the importance of its readers' trust in editorial content, it has reduced the labeling on paid editorial content.
The move is 180 degrees out of line with the findings of the largest survey of readers' attitudes to native advertising released last week by Edelman, the world's largest privately held PR company. Edelman's survey of 5,000 readers, recommended adding more labeling on native advertising, and it advised publishers to be careful because many readers said it adds no value to their experience.
Michael Sebastian at Advertising Age, writes
The New York Times has shrunk the labels that distinguish articles bought by advertisers from articles generated in its newsroom and made the language in the labels less explicit.
... Several marketers have bristled at all the labeling, suggesting it turned away readers before they had a chance to judge the content based on its quality.
Sebastian says, "Reader confusion over what's an ad is inherent."
In its recent financial report, The New York Times Company said that native advertising had started to make a contribution to its revenues but it did not quantify the amount.
Foremski's Take: The New York Times management is moving against mounting evidence that readers of general news confuse native advertising with native content, and that they don't trust content paid for by brands.
The management of the New York Times allows the ad sales department of the newspaper to sell and create native advertising for clients. But the editorial side of the business has no say over that content's ethical and editorial standards. Yet that paid content is mixed in with regular newspaper stories.
This is an untenable situation that's created by the traditional separation of "church and state" within newspapers. The commercial arm of the New York Times is sabotaging the editorial side while the newsroom is supposed to say nothing because it's not its business -- but it is.
Jill Abramson, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times, voiced her strong opposition to native advertising. She was fired earlier this year. This is a harsh message to the newsroom to stay out of the business of the newspaper.
But native advertising eats away at the trust readers have with the newspaper. By reducing the labeling on paid content it will only add to suspicions among readers that all other content is corrupt in some way.
No magic beans...
It's a very poor bargain. The New York Times recently forecast declining ad revenue for its current quarter despite "growing success" of native advertising products rolled out six months ago. Management is selling-out readers' trust in the newspaper for very little gain.
Brands are taking advantage of the newspaper's revenue problems but they are shooting themselves in the foot -- and the brain.
The Edelman survey showed great benefit to brands from buying native advertising on well-respected news publications. But very little benefit to brands on sites that were not trusted. Since native advertising reduces readers' trust, it reduces the effectiveness of brand messages.
Brands should seek to strengthen the relationship between publishers and readers rather than weaken it.
The tragedy is that the management of the New York Times is selling the newspaper's trusted reputation for independent reporting, for a handful of beans. And in this story, there is no magic beanstalk with a golden goose -- there's just more misery ahead and more newsroom layoffs.
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