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Is Native Advertising Becoming Harder to Spot?


August 6, 2014

As revenue from native advertising on the Internet becomes a lifeline for struggling print newspapers and magazines, the nation’s newspaper of record, The New York Times, has shrunk labels meant to distinguish online articles bought by advertisers, while also making the labeling language less explicit, AdAge.com says. The Times joined a growing list of establishment media selling native ads when it introduced “Paid Posts” in January, a ploy to draw readers by making ads resemble surrounding editorial content. Online editions of The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal also run native ads. BuzzFeed reportedly makes all of its advertising revenue from such content.

The Times has stressed the importance of clear labeling on its native ads, even as marketers argue that the labeling pushes readers away before they’ve had a chance to judge the quality of the content. Recent “Paid Posts” from Chevron and Netflix have a slimmer blue line that runs only along the top, unlike the thick blue border that previously surrounded the ads. “Paid For And Posted By” has been trimmed to “Paid Post,” in smaller type. A Times spokeswoman points out that the new label stays visible even as readers scroll down. “Paid Posts” supposedly helped increase Times Co.’s digital revenue by 3.4 percent during the second quarter, even as overall ad revenue declined by 4.1 percent.

A recent study from Contently, a company that pairs brands with writers to produce native ads, said that two-thirds of readers surveyed felt deceived after learning that an article or video was paid for by a brand. — Greg Beaubien



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