Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is It An Ad Or Editorial Or Both?

These days as we troll the web and glean content from our favorite sites, we are being exposed to ads in every form, from banner ads to pre-rolls, vying for our attention and our click.  But many users may not realize that some of those articles or highlights we click on may not be editorial but rather a paid advertisement.  Some might still call it an advertorial, but for many in the digital world it is known as native advertising.  "How to define native advertising exactly is still up for debate, and it can be defined quite broadly — as in: any advertising that integrates fully into the content within which it is placed."  And its goal is to blend advertising seamlessly among the content that we consume.

The results of using native advertising indicates that it does a better job of driving clicks than traditional banner advertising.  "Native advertising is being heralded as the savior of digital publishing, but as marketers' content treads increasingly on editorial ground, one of the big questions is: How should it be regulated?"  Or should it be regulated at all?  As users of the web, does the long time notion of "buyer beware" still hold true or should websites do a better job of clearly identifying sponsored content from independent editorial.

Some native advertising is not specifically about driving a brand message; rather, it is used to drive viewership to other sites that may provide additional content discovery and valuable editorial content.  Other native ads may drive to transition pages, only to be exposed to more native content before a second click to the intended web site and content.  And other native ads click to a website of pure advertorial content.  It costs the user a click or two, it drives analytics, but is it harmful?  I might contend that it also leads to a smarter web surfer; click me once shame on you, click me twice, shame on me.

The blending of editorial and advertising is not a new phenomenon.  Both print and video sites have been selling advertorial sections for as long as advertising has been around.  What may feel unusual on the digital platform is that the signs indicating that it is native advertising is either not expressively stated or hidden on the page.  According to "Ogden Publications CEO Bryan Welch. 'There will be no need to identify it,' he said. “I see everything blending.”  And that of course leads to my original thought, that the user or buyer beware.

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