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Consumers 'disappointed' by native ads

News, 17 June 2015

LONDON: More than a third of British and American readers of online news say they have felt "disappointed or deceived" after reading an article that turned out to be paid for by an advertiser, according to a new study.

The 4th Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University was based on an online survey of 2,149 adults in the UK and 2,295 in the US. This found a mix of dislike and confusion over the issue of native advertising.

Half of the sample of online news users (50% in both countries) agreed that they didn't like sponsored content but accepted it was part of the price they had to pay for free news.

But 33% of online news users in the UK and 43% in the US said they had felt disappointed or deceived after reading an article which they later found out was sponsored.

For most, this discovery didn't particularly affect how they regarded the brand or publication but around one fifth of respondents (22% in US and 21% in UK) said they had a less positive view of the brand paying for an advert.

The effect was more pronounced for the news organisation as the proportion with a less positive view rose to 28% for both UK and US respondents.

The IAB UK earlier this year published a set of guidelines to help the marketing industry provide more transparency to consumers around native advertising, including prominently visible visual cues and appropriate labelling.

Few publishers appear to have taken these on board, however, as the Reuters Institute report observed that subtleties of wording and font size meant little to most news consumers and explanatory pages were not read.

It also noted that resentment at the practices of native advertising were largely confined to the core news area – there was far more acceptance of sponsored content in other areas, such as travel, food, fashion and entertainment.

"There is a general consensus that news pages are for news and anything that interferes with this raises doubts among consumers and is potentially very damaging to any news brand that attempts it," said Shaun Austin, director of media research at YouGov, which conducted the survey.

Data sourced from Reuters Institute for Journalism; additional content by Warc staff