Westminster: PRoaden your mind the third

Welcome to the third article of this “PRoaden your mind” series. I am very happy to have the opportunity to share my favourite topic of this term with you today. I heard about it here in London at the University of Westminster and I was immediately wondering about the consequences of these special developments.

Native Advertising

Maybe you have heard about it, maybe you have not. I am convinced: You at least read several native ads without knowing it. That is way it is crucial to know about native advertising especially for media users but also for media producers. Here is a short explanation what native advertising actually is: Native advertising describes the most recent changes in the advertising landscape, with very doubtful effects. The most recent change is the advancement from banner that are of course annoying but at least easy to identify as advertising, to ads that are more or less ‘invisible’ because their design matches the design of the websites natural content. Therefore diverse ‘modern’ ads are unidentifiable as advertising for users and get perceived as natural content with the same value as for example real news on the website of a newspaper. Native ads function exactly like natural content. Sometimes they are marked with a small ‘sponsored by’. However, most of the time they are not even marked at all.

These developments bring enormous benefits for media producers, as ads have no discouraging or irritating effect on costumers anymore and it makes it easier for media producer who are depending on the income through advertising to place ads without loosing ad-annoyed readers.

Further, the job of ad producers has changed fundamentally. Ad producers do not need to create extravagant and outstanding pieces of advertising anymore, their main and only task in native advertising is to camouflage ads so that they look like news – the job gets easier but also more questionable and hypocritical.

Thinking of the ethical consequences of this new invention one can see that native advertising does not only have good sides indeed. With the advancement of native ads the manipulation, confusion and tricking of customers rise. At the same time the value of natural content (real news) lowers as natural content nowadays gets equated with paid content. Further, the overall quality of information available decreases. How can media customers be supposed to differ news and ads if they look exactly the same? And even worse: How can they be supposed to recognize the difference if they do not even know that native ads exist?

As one can see the responsibility of both media and ad producers is big. They have the power to decide what customers experienced reality looks like and what information customers receive. They decide about correctness, quality and presentation of content. One can only hope that they will not use their power in an unethical way in order to follow their own interests.

However, also media users can do something in order to avoid being manipulated. It can be helpful to think further, question and double-check gained information.

Unbelievable developments with huge effects on people’s experience of reality – what do you think about it?

From London with Love,

PS: Of course I am not only studying here, I also enjoy the wonderful Christmas London with new friends and typical English food as you can see on the pictures below.

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