Branded content. Native advertising. Call it what you will but no matter what you call it, big time news publications are giving it a go in the digital world, and they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon. I was asked to watch the comic clip below for my journalism class last week from ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ and was surprised even by my own reaction.
Two summers ago, I worked for a website design and marketing company that specialized in branded content and online marketing strategies. While at the company, I was generally in awe of the creative genius that they, and other advertising and marketing companies, had set forth creating branded content and marketing campaigns for clients.
Now, as a journalism student who reads the news for homework, I’m increasingly skeptical of native advertising. As a student and consumer who’s after genuine, truthful journalism, native ads feel like trickery to me. I understand that advertisers are exercising their creative aptitude, but what good is it doing to impose on a company’s editorial content and journalistic integrity by slighting readers with uninvited advertising?
With more and more backlash whipping at sites like Buzzfeed and Gawker for taking our digital attention span to something like 5 seconds, native ads are beginning to feel even more like a ploy to help these companies get ‘clicks’ and make money, eliminating any future hope for respectable journalism in a digital world. There should stand a boundary between editorial content and advertising content, and the current state of native ads is unjustly tempting it.