In a world where magazine and newspaper circulation is steadily declining, many news outlets are searching for new ways to generate revenue.
Native advertising, a type of online advertising that mimics the form and function of the platform it appears on, is one way many sites now make money. A survey by eMarketer found 36 percent of respondents use native advertising, which is a great for the news sites, but may be bad for readers.
Native advertising is tricky because since it blends in with regular content on a site, it can sometimes be misleading.
For example, a beginning photographer might be looking for the best entry-level DLSR camera and turns to a photography website for assistance. He goes to an article titled “The Best, Cheap DSLR Camera for Beginners” and sees the article list the Canon Rebel t5i as the best one. Unfortunately, he doesn’t see that the article is a native ad paid for by Canon who. in their best interest, labeled their own camera as number one.
This is problematic because the Rebel t5i may not be the best entry-level camera. The guy has been duped by Canon, and is tricked into buying the camera. This is where ethics come into play.
By not clearly labeling an article as “Sponsored Content,” readers can become easily fooled into believing biased or untrue information. In my opinion, that’s pretty unethical.
However, native advertising can be done ethically.
In this example, Dell and The New York Times effectively use native advertising.
In the picture, you can clearly see Dell’s banner at the top, a clear label saying “Paid For And Posted By Dell” and another Dell logo next to the author’s name. This is ethical.
To solve everyone’s problems over native advertising, I personally think all advertisers should be required to follow Dell’s footsteps. All paid content should be clearly marked with multiple signs signaling the article is sponsored.
By clearly marking native advertising, you don’t confuse readers, and you provide a win-win-win situation. You provide news outlets with revenue, advertising for the company and informative, albeit sometimes bias, content for readers.