The media as a sector has come a long way with the aid of rapidly developing information and communication technologies. But when we compare it to another similar sector, the change in media just pales in comparison. Advertisement as a sector undergoes constant change as society continually learns to escape its lures. But every time an advertisement method becomes obsolete, the sector adapts to the current climate and goes another way to stay alive.
The advertising and media sectors have long been in close relation as one provides reach while other brings in the revenues. To be more specific let me quote one of our previous articles on a World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) report: "During 2013 newspapers gained $163 billion in circulation and advertisement revenues. But this number was significantly higher a couple of years ago. In 2008 newspapers were getting $187 billion. Of course these numbers do not represent net profits. Since logistical expenses and prime costs increased in this period, profits are also affected by it. For every 100 euros in advertisement revenues in 2012, the number decreased to 82 euros in 2013."
We can clearly see that there is a negative shift in the revenues brought by advertising. There were a couple of factors in this. First was the new areas of advertising such as mobile gaming and applications but our focus today is the revenue that shifted over to web-oriented news organizations since our focus is the media rather than the advertisement sector itself.
Web journalism, the rising star of our sector, has enjoyed the revenues coming from renting its advertisement sections. As it is human nature, this easy income led to producing more and more advertisement spaces for the potential companies. One banner at the top became three, a side box with a single poster became a video with a blasting voice every time you dared to hover your cursor over it. Then you had to close whole pages of advertisements in order to reach the content itself. This type of aggressive advertisement might have worked a bit at the start but the readers quickly got fed up with it and sailed to greener pastures. While web journalism begins to look like a prodigal son who lost all of its fortune gambling, the advertisement sector proposed a way out. A new type of advertisement, seamlessly integrated into the content of the website itself. It was called native advertising. Before going further let's define native advertising: "Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. For example, an article written by an advertiser to promote their product, but using the same form as an article written by the editorial staff."
In the case of web journalism, native advertising is usually presenting advertisements as an actual news article by adapting their format, headlines, wording etc.
Recently though this type of advertising also became a cause of complaint for news organizations that employ native advertisements. I do not say that the news organizations have it easy, since they are in a predicament. On one hand we have discontented readers who are the lifeblood of the website. On the other hand, advertisement companies bring the lion share of the revenues and they wish to carry on with the native advertisements. After all such advertising gives them a chance to involve themselves with the relationship between the news website and the reader. They became part of the conversation according to advertising jargon.
However my take on this type of advertising is clear. If differentiating between a genuine news article and native advertisement is difficult then it also is unethical. This type of unorthodox approaches aims to catch readers unguarded and in the long term causes the news organization to lose credibility. On the other hand, the answer to this predicament isn't adding more aggressive advertisement and hindering the experience of the reader. I believe a middle ground can and needs to be found here, because both methods are not sustainable in the long run.