Trusting Sponsored Content

We’ve explored the subject of branded content or advertorial or deceptive editorial or whatever you want to call it here on the screed a few times.

English: Example of a variable data tear sheet...

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Some data on the subject that I came across from Contently is worth a minute of your time.  They were spurred to do the research by a statement from the CEO of Chartbeat, an analytics company, who claimed that only 24% of readers were scrolling down on native ad content compared to the 71% of readers who scroll on “normal content.” Since that content is advertising that is supposed to integrate seamlessly with the site’s other content and, therefore, get the sponsor higher brand engagement, that number is pretty disturbing.  For my money, not quite as disturbing in some ways as what the subsequent study found.

Putting aside that most of those surveyed disagree about what exactly qualifies as “sponsored content”, some of the other findings were:

  • Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
  • 54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
  • 59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.
  • As education level increases, so does mistrust of sponsored content.

In fact, the study found that people would rather have to deal with banner ads than sponsored articles, and the more education the consumer has the greater chance they feel deceived by a piece of branded content.  The fine print labeling it as something not quite the same as other editorial does nothing to change consumers’ views.

Way back in October of 2012, this is what I had to say on the subject:

I’m not a fan.  Obviously I’m a big fan of ad-supported media – I worked in it and sold it for decades.  I do think, however, that doing this in digital in particular is an issue since there is so much content out there and users’ expectations of editorial integrity…are not met when the line is crossed.  It calls into question all of the legitimate reporting.  I get that people might ignore advertising but pay attention to this.  They need to know it’s not the same as other content.

My views haven’t changed.  Have yours?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Huh?

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