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News vs. Native Advertising: Perspectives in Journalism Research

Mon, May 29, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 4, Sapphire 400A

Session Submission Type: Panel


In the current news media landscape the use of native advertising has sparked a heated debate in many countries. While this advertising format is not new, it accelerates the trend of blurring the boundaries between news and ads by producing commercial content that looks and feels like news while being clearly labeled as advertising. The novelty of native advertising is that it advocates for openly merging commercial and editorial content, rekindling the constant tension between the professional and commercial logics of journalism. The proponents of native advertising argue that such form of revenue carries no drawbacks as long as readers understand they are reading commercial content; to advertisers, native is attractive because it appropriates journalistic clout. The critics claim disguising ads as news not only deceives the readers but potentiates the loss of credibility news media claim to have. Thus, the relevance of this phenomenon is not merely economic, as it potentially redefines the tensions between journalists and publishers, questioning the allegiance to the citizen, and threatening the legitimacy and autonomy of contemporary news media. Its reach spans across borders, spilling over several types of journalism, and amalgamates various actors who can openly influence news content – from marketers to politicians.
Scholarly work on native ads has been prolific in other disciplines and it is only now that journalism studies is starting to pay attention to a topic that rests at the heart of journalism and how we understand it. This panel engages in various fronts of the native advertising debate contextualized within the boundaries of journalism. We argue that the capacity of native advertising to alter journalism for the worse or for the better is a necessary discussion in journalism research. First and foremost we address the problem of defining native advertising and demarcating the potential conceptual shift of the meaning of news. Furthermore, the implementation of this practice raises several questions about the effects of merging editorial and commercial content on readers. More specifically, the issue of transparency and perceived deceptiveness is crucial to understand the negotiation between financing journalistic operations and potentially endangering the trust of the public through the increasing relationship between publishers and advertisers. Finally, we acknowledge an uneven implementation both at a publication level and at an international level, with further complicate the study of native advertising. Our contribution to the scholarly debate spills over a conceptual and empirical inquiry while maintaining an international perspective.

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