For all those folks who believe people have a right to know when they’re being advertised to (and by all those folks, of course, we mean the hardtracking staff), this will come as unwelcome news.

From Caroline O’Donovan’s piece at Nieman Journalism Lab:


Does having native advertising make a news site less credible? This study, at least, suggests no

Two researchers at Cal Poly published a study that looks at how older people consume and perceive native advertising compared to younger readers.

Native advertising is providing an ever-larger chunk of digital revenue for publishers these days. But despite (or perhaps because of) the money, lots of journalists are still squeamish about the topic. They worry that, at its core, native advertising is about tricking your reader into reading an ad and thinking its editorial content. Why would a reader who feels duped by a news brand ever want to return to it?

That’s the question that led Patrick Howe and Brady Teufel of Cal Poly to publish a research paper titled “Native Advertising and Digital Natives: The Effects of Age and Advertisement Format on News Website Credibility Judgments.”


And what does the study show?

Not what the researchers thought it would.


To construct the project, Howe collaborated with Teuful, whose expertise is in design, to construct two faux news site homepages. Using a mockup of a BuzzFeed page, Howe and Teufel exposed respondents to both native advertising (see the Columbia Sportswear ad at middle right):



and traditional display advertising (in the same slot):



Howe hypothesized that [there’d] be a substantial gap between how younger and older readers viewed the credibility of the site — but that’s not what happened.


Here’s what did: “[P]eople in both age groups felt more or less the same about the credibility of the two sites, regardless of what kind of advertising it displayed.” Apparently, the older group didn’t really recognize native advertising; the younger group, on the other hand, recognized it but didn’t care.

Good news? Bad news?



John R. Carroll is media analyst for NPR's Here & Now and senior news analyst for WBUR in Boston. He also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town.
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