Posted by Tom Foremski - January 20, 2015
I'm a fierce opponent of "native ads" because by their very nature they pretend to be something else, and that damages trust, not just in the publication that hosts them but in all trusted media.
So far, native ads have been sold to product companies such as computer maker Dell, publishing articles in the New York Times that resemble the style of the newspaper's stories. With election season starting up, will we see native ads masquerading as independent political reporting?
Allowing Dell to mimic New York Times' stories is distasteful but less disturbing than if special interest groups sought to sway voters by imitating a newspaper's political coverage.
The Presidential election season has always provided big paydays for big media companies but will they be able to win those fat political advertising accounts as easily as before?
The media technology platforms of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pintrest, et al. will capture a larger share of political ad money this time around. With media companies already badly squeezed on revenues by their transition to digital, will desperate times lead to desperate offers on native ads?
It would be a very bad move.
In the largest study of native ads, commissioned by PR firm Edelman, the majority of 5,000 readers surveyed said they lost trust in media that carried native ads.
Yet the most effective advertising is in trusted, high quality publications. The buyers of native advertising are actively harming the effectiveness of all their advertising. It doesn't make sense. They are poisoning the well from which we all drink. Without trusted media we can't make good decisions. Garbage in, garbage out.
The media industry is stunningly clueless, as usual. And its management is all too willing to sell hard-won trust in their publications for a handful of beans. But there's no magic beanstalk and there's no golden goose in this story. There's just more newsroom layoffs and a society struggling with a corrupted media industry.
Politicians should observe carefully how native ads are used during this election season. It costs a lot less to corrupt the media than to corrupt the political process through $3.2 billion in 2013 spending on lobbyists, and more than $6 billion to finance the 2012 US Congressional and Presidential elections.
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