Is Native Advertising destroying journalism?

Andrew Sullivan seems to think that native advertising most certainly is destroying journalism.

He comments on Ezra Klein’s Vox project raising $110 million over recent years and their stated business plans.

If the new media brands that have emerged over the last couple of years were described (accurately) as new advertising agencies, the stories might not have had as much traction (or contained as much hope for the future of journalism). But that, it is quite clear, is what most of these new entities are. Vox has now dropped any pretensions that it is not becoming an ad agency, creating “articles” that perpetuate and distribute the marketing strategies of major corporations.

The logic of this, from a business standpoint, is so powerful almost no one can resist it. Display or banner advertising is sinking into an after-thought, leaving journalism with a huge revenue crisis – especially when you have no subscription income from readers. And when you’re drowning in venture capital, the pressure to to find a way to pay it back eventually must, even now, be crushing. There’s no other explanation for the fullscale surrender of journalism to what would, only five years ago, have been universally understood as blatant corruption.

What always amazes me about the interviews with the various media professionals involved is their use of the English language. It’s close to impenetrable to anyone outside the industry – e.g. “publishers have to get better with understanding the product side of native” – which, of course, helps to disguise the wholesale surrender of journalism to public relations. What also amazes me is how silent the actual editors of these sites are on the core, and once-deemed-unethical, foundation of their entire business. So we’re unlikely to hear Ezra explain to his liberal readers how he’s now engaged in the corporate propaganda business. But if you scan the interview with Vox‘s new fake article guru, Lindsay Nelson, some truths slip out. To wit:

You’re going to need to be great storytellers and create things that help advertisers with the goals that they have for that quarter … We’re trying to become a consulting partner, where we help brands and guide them to develop a content marketing strategy that is 12-months long … If there’s something in the news that a brand wants to be close to you can get them up and running with the same type of polish that they would expect from advertising that takes much longer.

So even breaking news may well be advertising in the near future. And good luck telling the difference.

And the NZ Herald and Fairfax rush headlong into native advertising.

Are they further destroying their remaining credibility?

On the other hand these media organisations are seeking to destroy the businesses of the ad agencies who previously propped them up.

On top of that NZME. is now pushing hard their own SEO services or as they call it “digital marketing services”…which might be credible if they didn’t have the worst URL structure in the world for SEO.

The NZ Herald and Fairfax are fast morphing into exactly what Andrew Sullivan describes…”new advertising agencies”.

Imagine a news site without advertising, without state sponsorship or subsidies, imagine a news organisation Freed from such constraints.


– The Dish


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  • WordWeasel

    Journalism? Journalism? I seem to remember my father talking about it. What used to be found in newspapers

  • Reid

    Are they further destroying their remaining credibility?

    0 minus anything is still zero..

    • cmm

      Zero minus anything is negative.

      When they lack any credibility, then endorsing a product becomes a negative endorsement in the eyes of the viewer.

      For example, let us say you were out to buy a book on small business and entrepreneurship. You pick up a book and find it is endorsed by Little and Norman. Would you buy that book and expect it to give you insights into developing a business?

  • dgrogan

    And yet as MSM morphs into anything and everything, the gap for a specialist news gatherer opens up. Alway opportunity in change for those with their eyes and ears open.

  • damm good thrashing

    I don’t now what it was, but something destroyed the journalism at the Herald a long time ago.

  • cmm

    MSM are doomed to irrelevance. Native advertising is not going to change the outcome. It might just speed things along a bit.