If native advertising is so harmless, why does it rely on misleading readers?

o13-iconBob Garfield writes: The devil walks into a bar and sits at a table with eight newspaper and magazine publishers plus one strange little fellow in shabby, dated robes. The devil says, “How’d you all like to get some advertising revenue at higher rates than what you’ve been fetching for the past five or six years?”

The publishers crowd in to hear to his offer. All they need do in exchange is make the advertising look similar to the surrounding editorial matter. “Can we label it as advertising?” one publisher asks.
“You can label it ‘sponsored content,'” the devil replies.
“And it will be worthy?” chimes in another publisher.
“Oh yes,” says the devil. “My clients don’t benefit if people don’t read the stuff.”
“But won’t this confuse our readers,” ventures another publisher, “and even deceive them into reading brand propaganda when they’re expecting arms-length journalism?”

The devil has an answer for that, too. “I repeat: the rates are higher than for the regular display ads that nobody ever looks at. What say we put this to a vote?”

One by one the publishers raise their hands. The Economist. Forbes. The Atlantic. The Huffington Post. The Washington Post. Time Inc. The New York Times. And, most recently, Yahoo. Nine people sit at the table, and eight hands eventually are raised. Only one, the strange fellow with the odd garments and a thick German accent, fails to accept the devil’s offer.

“And you, sir,” says the prince of darkness. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Faust,” answers the holdout.
“And may I ask why you did not accept my bargain, Mr Faust?”
The odd fellow nods. “Sure,” he says to the devil. “To tell you the truth, I don’t see much of an upside.” [Continue reading…]

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