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The line between news and advertising continues to blur, including at major news outlets like Time magazine, The Atlantic and The New York Times, as commentator John Oliver illustrates in this August 2014 segment of his show Last Week Tonight.
News content sponsored directly by advertisers—also called native advertising, sponsored content or advertorials—is controversial because what looks like a regular news article is actually an advertisement of sorts. How much can you trust a news article about women in prison if it’s sponsored by Netflix, which produces Orange is the New Black, Oliver asks.
Although native advertising notes somewhere who the sponsor is, the notice is usually small and unobtrusive—that’s the point. It’s supposed to look like a news piece instead of a traditional ad.
So while there might not be an actual conflict of interest, there’s the appearance of one. The danger is that the news organization’s credibility will be damaged because audiences can’t trust any of its content.
Felix Gillette of businessweek.com, which is the online site for the business magazine Bloomberg Businessweek, posted this piece.
Michael Sebastian of adage.com, which is the online site for the trade publication Advertising Age, posted this piece.