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Incorporating native advertising: Assessing journalism’s new trend of camouflaging church as state
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Geography, Media and Communication. (NODE)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0501-2217
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Journalism has several gears for motivating its existence, alongside with information, entertainment, and advertisement (McQuail, 1994). The conflicting powers that drive journalism are entangled within tensions between commercial logics and professional logics (Altheide & Snow, 1991; Karlsson & Clerwall, 2013), trying to dictate the future of the trade.The professional logic, which regards audiences as citizens, is the driving force that nurtures the civic and democratic properties of journalism (Bennet, 1993; McNair, 2009; Merrill, 2011) and establishes the ideal-typical values of journalism as public service, objectivity, autonomy, immediacy, and ethics (Kovack & Rosenstiel, 2001). The commercial logic, which regards audiences as consumers, addresses the fact that most news outlets are subjected to commercial urges in the need for funding that help sustain the organization. This logic is widely regarded as the responsible for the decline within several fronts of the journalist profession such as work practices, output quality, and norms, leading to tabloidization, popularization, and commodification of news (Lewis, Williams, & Franklin, 2008; Bird, 2009; Örnebring & Jönsson, 2011, Reese and Lee, 2012).Traditionally, even within the confines of commercial-oriented news outlets, journalists adopt the ideals of what journalism is supposed to be with more ease than the institutions they work for (Stensaas, 2005) calling for autonomy, keeping editorial lines independent from commercial influences. This has been historically named as the separation of church and state. While the general trend has been of keeping advertising and other forms of revenue separate from journalism, the attempt to keep these concepts on separate lanes has suffered a fluctuating degree of success, influenced by the conflicts outlined above. These tensions intensify within the current context of media convergence, digital and new journalism formats, audience reconfigurations, and sets the context on which legacy news media address the balance between editorial autonomy and funding sources (Deuze, 2004).This paper examines the increasing trend of adopting native advertising in the digital fronts of traditional news media outlets. Methodologically, this study looks at news websites that are digital counter parts of 12 legacy newspapers from Sweden, Spain, the UK, and the USA, and analyses the adoption of native advertising during the span of a month. Consequently, these advertisements are analyzed in terms of content, format, and the degree of transparency when linking each piece to the marketer who pays for the ad. The study finishes with a brief comparison of the results in terms of country, specifically, in light of Hallin and Mancini’s (2004) media systems composition.For the purpose of this study, native advertising is defined as a form of paid media where the commercial content is delivered within the design and form of editorial content with the attemptto recreate the user experience of reading news instead of advertising content. In terms of form native advertising matches the visual design of the main outlet they are placed in, and are meant to look and feel like natural content. In terms of function, it behaves consistently within the native modes of consumption while addressing themes and issues that are related to the paying advertiser. In other words, native advertising camouflages commercial advertising content as real news and editorial content in order to entice the user to read the news without becoming apparent that this is indeed a paid for commercial.As regular digital advertising revenues plummet, and drawing from new configurations of digital journalism, where popularized news services and aggregators have found viable sources of revenue in in-feed and recommended content features within the frame of native advertising, legacy media started adopting paid inclusion of commercials within their own formats. One of the first cases, the inclusion in the news site of the Atlantic a native ad feature the Church of Scientology, raised controversy and concerns about placing advertising formatted and distributed in the same fashion as regular news (Carlson, 2014). Since then, several other major legacy media outlets such as The Washington Post and The New York Times have adopted similar strategies that blur the boundaries between advertising and editorial content.Digital revenue has been growing steadily during the last years, and these new forms of advertising formats are in part responsible for this rise, especially because they are created by marketers, aiming to persuade consumers, but disguised as legitimate content (Tutaj & Van Reijmersdal, 2012; Cole II & Greer, 2013). Thus, the communicative ethos of journalism is immersed in a constant formative process similarly affected by technological configurations, institutional and organizational dispositions, professional practices, and economic and societal contexts (Ekström & Djerf-Pierre, 2013). A single factor cannot explain the meanderings of journalism practice. This constant re-conceptualization of journalism is what limits the formation of a common idea of what journalism is, and what journalism is supposed to be (Conboy, 2010).It is clear that since the beginning of commercial journalism, news media have a dual goal to serve and satisfy both citizens and the entrepreneurs who own the media (Schudson, 1997). However, the preliminary results of this study show a steady increase of native advertising, tipping the scales towards a re-formulation of journalism that adopts commercial actors and marketers within the arena that used to be run by journalists. The unique economic and technological context of online news could lead to a compromised autonomy, independence and credibility for journalistic practice as the economic urges to attract revenue transcend the editorial lines incorporating advertising that looks just like news. If this practice proves to be a lucrative one in the long term, the new commercial journalism might be based on camouflaging church as state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keywords [en]
Journalism values, native advertising, commercialization, digital journalism, autonomy
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-35252OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-35252DiVA, id: diva2:789723
Conference
Re-Inventing Journalism at ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences 5-6 feb
Available from: 2015-02-20 Created: 2015-02-20 Last updated: 2017-10-06Bibliographically approved

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Ferrer Conill, Raul

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