Disclosure in media journalism has been a big topic in the past couple of years thanks to grass roots consumer movements like #GamerGate. Part of that discussion has been native advertisements, which have become an increasing part of the content line-up for most sites. In fact, for the New York Times it’s becoming their primary business practice.
According to the Wall Street Journal they’ve recently reported that New York Times CEO Mark Thompson has revealed that their ad unit (which usually consists of third-party freelance writers working with top brands to produce editorialized content that looks like news but is actually an advertisement) will be on target to hit $60 million in revenue by the end of the year.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with native ads… so long as they’re disclosed as such. Gawker was a prime target of #GamerGate for many of their undisclosed or poorly disclosed affiliate links and native ads, many of which were used in ways that were deceptive to the point where you couldn’t actually tell that they were ads.
At present, you won’t be able to easily spot out the native ads on the New York Times’ front page, but when clicking into the content they’re supposed to be labeled plainly and clearly as such, as per the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission.
The New York Times has been consistent in keeping the paid content separate from the other news articles, clearly labeling them under a separate sub-domain called Paidpost.nytimes.com. An example is a sponsored post for a Google product made in collaboration with T Brand Studio. There’s a clearly defined label on the page along with the “Paid Post” header.
They even made headlines last year when Native Advertising Institute looked into their native ad model back in 2015 after a piece called “Women Inmates Separate But Not Equal” for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black nearly went viral back in 2014.
New York Times’ corporate communications director, Linda Zebian, put into context just how successful the native ad was for the company, explaining to Native Advertising Institute…
“It’s difficult to determine how many articles were published during that time period, however, we publish approximately, on average, 200 articles a day.
“The study period was approximately 341 days, which would put us at upwards of 68,000 articles (that does not necessarily include graphics, slideshows and videos). So, if ‘Women Inmates’ was in the top 1,000-trafficked articles during the study period, we can loosely suggest that the Netflix Paid Post was in the top 1.47% of articles published during that time period.”
According to the New York Times CEO, Mark Thompson is on the verge of waging war against ad-blocking companies because – surprise, surprise – users absolutely hated ads. Thompson wants his cake and to eat it, too, explaining that ad-blockers are “unfair and deceptive”, even though users have every right to choose not to engage in content they don’t want to engage in.
Even still, Thompson believes that the native advertising route is an opportunity to change things around and engage visitors differently, stating…
“We’re moving from a world where advertising can work on the basis of captive attention to a world where advertising has to capture attention,”
In an interesting piece on Linkedin Pulse by Katie Carroll, she quotes Hollywood actor Will Smith who bluntly came to an epiphany that some movie studios still haven’t discovered, saying…
“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, you put out a trailer with all the explosions, and it took until Wednesday before people realized your movie was shit,” [In today’s social world] “You’re going to know right away if your product is meeting its promises.”
“[…] “It’s like a new idea that we have to make good movies, […] “If people don’t want it, you’re not going to be able to sell it.”
I’m sure some of you are having instant flashes of the new 2016 reboot of the Ghostbusters movie from Sony Pictures and Paul Feig. The movie is practically everywhere and they’ve been hammering it into the minds of any and everyone they can, especially people who have actively decided that they just don’t want to see the movie.
And speaking of Ghostbusters and the New York Times… while native advertising may be working for the outlet, trying to force readers to like something they don’t want to like hasn’t been going over so well. They just recently did a piece called “Who’s Afraid Of Female Ghostbusters?” on June 21st, 2016, targeting sci-fi fans and nerds alike as the big, bad, evil Hitlers of the internet. Apparently shaming nerd culture into liking Ghostbusters is the new native ad? Well, it isn’t working.
Katie Carroll from the Linked in article succinctly makes it clear what sort of route marketers should be taking when it comes to getting their products out there, writing…
“The lesson for marketers is clear: If you’re not listening to your audience, your promotions will fall on deaf ears.”
Maybe whoever is in charge of organizing the native ads on the New York Times – which ironically seem to be liked by most visitors – should be given full reign over the rest of the editorial content so that maybe they focus on the things people do want, so they will be able to sell it.
(Main image courtesy of Netflix)