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The controversy of native advertising

Recently, BuzzFeed announced that it will be launching native video political advertising for politicians and political causes. Vice president of Politics & Advocacy for BuzzFeed, Rena Shapiro, will oversee the native political ads, created by BuzzFeed’s product and branded video teams.

This is a large step towards reaching the millennial, and influential, population that frequently reads the emerging news source, BuzzFeed.

“BuzzFeed is the top place millennials and influentials are reading and sharing news, and with the smart and thoughtful reporting from BuzzFeed Politics, there is a huge demand for political and advocacy groups to tap into that audience. From our shareable videos to our social posts, there’s a massive opportunity and I can’t wait to get started,” Shapiro said.

While BuzzFeed claims that these native advertisements will be clearly marked, others are not so sure. Many are questioning the ethical dilemma of native advertisements, wondering if the readers really can differentiate between a paid native advertisement and an editorial news piece.

According to PRSA, native advertising is “articles that mimic objective editorial content, written or commissioned by brands and appearing on publisher websites.”

According to Contently, this is not unique to BuzzFeed either. Publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic also make a pretty penny off this controversial form of advertisement, charging anywhere from 25,000 to 200,000.


Although many of these publications may take steps towards highlight the content as an advertisement, the majority of Contently’s study participants mistook the native advertising for news editorials independent from advertisers.

With an estimated $1 billion expected to be spent on the 2016 election digital ads, it is no wonder BuzzFeed is upping their political game. This demand also parallels the increasing demand to meet millennials where they spend their time, as discussed in my first blog regarding Snapchat.

However, will this heightened demand from advertisers and increased income into major publications compromise the legitimacy and trust of news journalism? Or on the contrary, will millennials trust the sources and accredit them to being news and not advertisements?

In my opinion, there is such an influx of information that we sort through in this day in age, millennials are attracted to the short, simplistic and entertaining style of BuzzFeed. In addition to that, we are a fast-paced generation and I am not sure millennials are reading the fine print. I believe short-term effects will involve the problem of millennials accepting native advertisement as news; however, long term, I believe long-term affects could be a mistrust of publications. How do you know what you’re reading is independent journalism or paid for my an advertiser?

I look forward to watching how this trend of native advertising, specifically on BuzzFeed, affects the millennial influence and interest in the 2016 presidential election.

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