Native advertising is blurring the line between content and advertising in the 21st Century
Native advertising is content paid for by advertisers which is made to look like original content from a website or news outlet. The use of this type of media comes with the rise of online news and blogs. Before the Internet, news outlets found it easy to sell advertising. Delivering a message via print, television or radio was the only significant way to communicate with new potential customers. Newspapers could charge a lot of money for this. News outlets also had the added benefit of subscription fees. The internet hurt conventional advertisers by fragmenting the market (more sites with fewer views each) which reduced circulation numbers. News outlets have been in scramble mode since this movement began in earnest. Banner ads and online subscriptions have not filled the void. Native advertising might be one way of saving the profitability of the news.
Vice a Native Advertising Pioneer
This news outlet popular amongst young people is a pioneer in native advertising. Vice uses native advertising to support content that has a commercial purpose and content that is purely news. This new business model is working well for Vice. A&E Networks is buying a 10% stake in Vice Media for $250 million, which puts its overall valuation at $2.5 billion, up from $1.4 billion in 2013. Vice manages to use native advertising without losing its irreverent and independent edge that underlies its huge popularity with the key (and hard to reach) hipster demographic. Here is an example of native advertising on Vice:
New York Times
The sober minded New York Times made waves when it first started offering native advertising. Critics were quick to say that this would interfere with the credibility of one of the most respected newspapers in the world. The NY Times was equally quick to point out that it clearly labels native advertising pieces and that it maintains the same rigorous editorial process. One company to capitalize on the NY Times’ new policy was Netflix. Before the release of the show “Orange Is the New Black,” a story about female prison inmates, its producer and distributor, Netflix, had the NY Times publish an article about life for female prison inmates. The NY Times contends that the article was up to its high reportorial standards. It just happens that Netflix tipped the scale in favor of a female prison prison feature instead of some other worthy story:
Is a website designed to distract people at work. It creates interesting lists and other content that people often do not know they want until they see it. BuzzFeed goes about finding advertisers by offering to create lists that make people think about the product the company sells. Many major companies like Pepsi and Starbucks use BuzzFeed to create native marketing for them. BuzzFeed is expected to generate over a billion dollars in revenue in 2014.
The future of native advertising could have a major impact on the future of media. Will traditional news outlets like the New York Times lose credibility and cache as they dilute their products to satisfy advertisers? Does this mean that people prefer lists to traditional articles? It remains to be seen how people will get information in this rapidly changing digital age.
Here is HBO comedian John Oliver’s take on native advertising: