Do you read news websites for entertainment, or to be informed? Of course, you do!

But for a while, news sites have been sneaking a new type of story into the mix – stories that are not entertaining, informative or educational.

Yesterday, Vijai Raju, the digital media sales specialist for Fairfax gave a presentation in Whangarei’s Orchard Business and Event Hub. The presentation focused specifically on web advertising options on Stuff.co.nz.

Raju’s role involves generating new business revenue across the Fairfax digital products, such as the latest advertising offering, native advertising.

Native ads look and read like a regular story. The significant difference is that it is not newsworthy. The client has paid for the piece to slip onto the web page, alongside stories of national significance.

Do you click into sponsored content? Have you ever read a real news story about a company? Which do you trust more?

So now, ask yourself – are you comfortable with your potential customers viewing your sponsored content with contempt because you fooled them into reading it?

Interpreting the rules

You have to wonder, how does native advertising pass the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) code? Is the ASA asleep at the wheel?

The Codes of Practice regulate the industry through basic principles, including “No advertisement should be misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive the consumer”.

Also, this rule covers it – “Advertisements should be clearly distinguishable as such, whatever their form and whatever the medium used; when an advertisement appears in a medium which contains news or editorial matter, it must be presented so that it is readily recognised as an advertisement”.

Raju’s main sales pitch for native ads was that they look just like real stories!

Ah, but the words “sponsored content” or “suggested” are placed in a faded gray font under the piece. Do you know what “suggested” means? Nope – me neither.

In some NZME products, the word “printed by arrangement” is used. Isn’t everything in the paper printed by some kind of arrangement.

Do readers feel a little fooled into reading advertising content? This is a major source of tension between newsrooms and sales departments in NZ’s media at present and one which may see readers tuning in elsewhere, for more reliable and trustworthy content.

Earned media

Have you ever felt the buzz of having a journalist interview you for a story and seeing it printed? It’s a great feeling. This is “earned media”.

These newsworthy stories appear in print due to their own merits. Is native advertising an impostor?

PR and media relations professionals have, traditionally, been the people facilitating earned media. We extract the news angles from our clients. We know them and we know the media – we can see a real and genuine media opportunity.

A sense of harmony exists between clients, media consultants, and journalists, where everyone is getting what they want.

Truth versus commercial spin

Media consultants know that stories must be relevant, current, local and true. Facts are checked by us and rechecked by journalists. The stories pitched to media are printed after undergoing a rigorous process which ensures readers can be guaranteed that what they are reading are true.

Journalists and editors are also tasked with a noble challenge – they set the daily news agenda and dictate the news hierarchy, in other words – they decide what everyone is going to be talking about tomorrow.

What a massive task! What an honour and one we trust them with, wholeheartedly.

But where is native advertising in this? Is it a breach of that trust?

Do you feel is insults the intelligence of readers?

Contact Christine for a free, initial consultation to find out more about earned media and how your company can get media exposure without hoodwinking your customers and without a hefty advertising bill.

To read the ASA rules on advertising, click here.

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