Time for Journalism Pedants to Face the Music on Native Advertising


The New York Times’ Executive Vice President of Advertising, Meredith Levien, revealed that their readers are spending roughly the same amount of time on native advertising content as traditional news stories and editorials. While speaking at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ public relations forum, Levien also stated that some paid posts outperformed conventional stories.

A prime example of great results is an interactive graphic sponsored by United Airlines documenting how far athletes had to travel for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. This piece of content generated a whopping 200,000 views. The Times’ native advertising push is fairly new and has only existed since January, but this move is proving fruitful for the Gray Lady. A total of eight advertisers are currently teamed up with the historic publication, with more waiting in the wings.

These comments and results firm up the notion that native advertising is not killing credibility or driving readers away from news sources. Journalism purists and detractors of native advertising need to understand that readers are savvy enough to identify sponsored content (as if the presence of logos and tags weren’t enough of a clue) and welcome content that provides VALUE. Overall, native advertising helps elevate advertising by allowing for storytelling to unfold and meatier messaging to be created. Publications should rejoice in the fact that native advertising is less disruptive to the audience and provides something the ailing news industry needs desperately… money.

If traditional publishers want to thrive in a changing world where social media and mobile devices have drastically changed how people access information, they need to stop thinking of native advertising as a soul selling endeavor. Brands and publishers need to dispel distrust and continue improving communication regarding the inventory available for native ads and the content creation process. In the end, publishers have control over the tone, style, and placement of the native ads produced. As long as both sides keep up the dialogue and remain transparent to readers; publications can enjoy a much needed boost in revenue and marketers can reach intended audiences with pertinent content.

It’s time for so-called ‘Journalism Purists’ to stop jumping at shadows and examine how sponsored content can benefit all parties involved and give publications the opportunity to survive, grow, and evolve. By treating native advertising as a boogeyman and snubbing its obvious value, they might as well be writing the obituary of the industry they are so keen on ‘protecting’.