July 10, 2014
Many readers feel tricked by so-called sponsored content or native advertising, which looks like editorial content but an advertiser pays for it. In a new survey, two-thirds of respondents said they felt deceived when they realized that a brand was sponsoring an article or video.
As Fortune reports, digital ventures such as BuzzFeed have embraced this kind of advertising, as have online versions of traditional publications like Forbes, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Fortune. Last year, advertisers spent a reported $2.4 billion on native ads — a 77 percent increase from 2012.
In the survey conducted by Contently, a startup that connects brands with writers who create sponsored content, just more than half of respondents said they don’t trust such content. Fifty-nine percent said they think that a news site that runs this type of camouflaged advertising loses credibility.
Publishers and advertisers argue that sponsored content is labeled as such. But according to the study, readers are confused about what the phrase “sponsored content” means. Half think it denotes that a sponsor paid for and influenced the article, while one-fifth believes that an editorial team produces the content but “a sponsor’s money allowed it to happen.” Eighteen percent think the sponsor paid to have its name appear next to the article, and 13 percent think it means that the sponsor itself wrote the article. — Greg Beaubien