Native Advertising

It’s the newest trend in advertising, but is it bad for your business?

Before we start, let’s make sure we know what native advertising is:

While this video itself is not without advertising, it gives a good definition of native advertising: essentially, advertising disguised into the stream of the content you’re reading. If you use social media, you’ve almost definitely been exposed to this, whether it’s sponsored posts, promoted hashtags, or suggested follows. This form of advertising has become touchy among consumers due to shady usage of it by some businesses.

When is native advertising okay? While some users may get annoyed at having your page promoted right in the middle of their social media feed, this has become one of the most common and most effective way to promote your own social media page. Consumer’s blame for these intrusive posts should be placed more upon the social media site they use than your actual business; there’s nothing wrong with your business taking advantage of the services social media sites offer to your business (at least, in the opinion of this author, there’s nothing wrong with that). Similarly, I do not see any harm in a sponsored post on a site such as Buzzfeed or The Onion, where your post can appear just like any other post – funny and sharable.

Issues with native advertising arise when they compromise the integrity of the host site. Most often, unethical native advertising can be found on news sites, and the native advertisements become opinionated “news stories”. John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver outlines a number of the issues surrounding native advertising and the news:

As seen in the video, The Atlantic’s sponsored content from the Church of Scientology got considerable media backlash from the media and viewers alike who have mixed feelings on that *religion*. The issue with news sites using native advertising is that, as noted in the above video, less than half of visitors to a news site can distinguish between native advertising and regular, non-sponsored content – even though the native advertising is labeled as sponsored. This means that many readers will see a piece of native advertising, not realize that it’s an ad, and take the post at face value. What this could ultimately lead to is media controlled by advertisers, managed only by an advertising editor; deciding what readers should read about and how their business should be perceived by readers.

Native advertising, at its worst, can be used as a way to reshape the public’s opinion of your company by publishing news articles on reputable sites that readers won’t realize is being paid for by your company. At its best, native advertising can bring many new followers, customers, or readers to your business, increase your brand awareness, and drive sales – but only if it’s done ethically. I believe native advertising should have no place on news sites, but with such a blend between what is a “true news” site and websites that publish some news and some click-bait, it can be tough to eliminate unethical forms of native advertising.

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