native advertising, journalism, disclosures, deception, ethics, regulation
The struggling journalism industry adopted the practice of native advertising to raise digital revenue. This practice offered advertisers a chance to purchase the services of a publication in order to have their story published. The goal of native advertising is for advertising to become invisible to consumers, and to be presented to audiences as if were regular editorial content. The only distinguishing feature is a disclosure, often identifying the accompanying article as being “Sponsored Content,” “Promoted Content”, “Custom Content,” or a “Paid Post.” This research paper discusses the struggles of journalism and digital advertising. It examines the many definitions of native advertising, and the advertising theory of the cool sell, in which advertising moves away from clearly demarcated interruptions and hence disappears from the public eye. It also examines the ethical implications and the possibility of deceiving audiences by presenting adverting as if it were editorial content. The focus of this research paper is in the very disclosures that act as the separation between editorial and advertising content. A total of 688 undergraduate students at the University of Windsor participated in an online survey designed to determine if they could accurately assess the reporting intent of the various disclosures using an even-point Likert scale. Survey participants viewed two native advertisements, each with a randomized disclosure, and answered key questions as to whether they were able to perceive the advertising intent of the article. Results of the study proved inconclusive in determining whether any single disclosure was more effective than any other. This may be attributed to the various challenges in studying native advertising and indicates that perhaps we need to move beyond studying the disclosures and focus more on the ethical issues of the practice.
Additional committee member(s)
Master of Arts
Communication and Social Justice
Major Research Paper