Who Is Your Content Working For?

24 Jan Who Is Your Content Working For?

141733416A book’s worth of  hand-wringing has been written about native advertising over the last few months, no small amount of it coming from this blog.

MediaPost wondered aloud: Will Publishers Lose Free-Speech Protection With Native Advertising?

The FTC warned against deceiving consumers at a recent native advertising workshop:

“The delivery of relevant messages and cultivating user engagement are important goals… But it’s equally important that advertising not mislead consumers. By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a nonbiased source.”  — FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez

TownNews’ CEO Marc Wilson urged readers of the most recent edition of News & Tech to proceed with caution on native advertising, concluding:

“We need to be careful. There is a slippery slope in native advertising that can do damage to our content. Paid content needs to be clearly designated and labeled.”

It seems to me that everything will be fine as long as the nature of the content we present is clear to our readers and site visitors.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case at multiple local news websites.

I have observed some sites where the presentation of paid-for branded content from such providers as Brandpoint is not labeled as “sponsored,” or “native” or “paid” or anything of the sort. How does Brandpoint make money? Here’s what it says on the company website:

“Brandpoint’s content marketing and content syndication (mat release or article distribution) services connect brands with consumers to drive sales. Our dedicated, on-staff experts are ready to help you grow your business.”

Folks, this is native advertising on your site. If you present this content without clearly designating and labeling it for what it is, you are deceiving your readers. You also are inflicting damage to your reputation. Finally, you put advertiser relationships at risk when out-of-market competitors are quoted in these articles instead of them.

If I were the FTC, I would take a much closer look at this “free” content distribution and worry less about such sources as The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times or other media outlets that clearly label what they are presenting as sponsored when somebody else pays the freight.

If I were you, I would ask, “Who is my content working for?” Doesn’t it make sense that it should work for you rather than someone else’s brand?