Here's why 'native ads' are a very bad idea... So why is the NYTimes so clueless?

Here's why 'native ads' are a very bad idea... So why is the NYTimes so clueless?

Summary: The New York Times has sold its soul for a handful of beans...and there's no magical beanstalk to save it from a very bad decision.

TOPICS: Emerging Tech
Native Ad


Native advertising is the world’s worst idea and I can’t believe the New York Times management is so gullible and clueless in agreeing to its publication. 

Gullible — because they were talked into giving away their hard won position as the nation’s top newspaper by marketing people looking for short-term gains.

Clueless — because they can’t see the stupidity of their actions and how they’ve shot themselves in the foot, groin, and brains.

The brands and marketing agencies are clueless, too. The practice is exceptionally harmful because it makes it seem as if all content is corrupt.

Native advertising poisons the well of trust that publishers have worked so hard to build, and that advertisers benefit from.

Ads are more effective in highly trusted publication. So why would brands and marketing agencies allow the erosion of readers’ trust in publications they need for their commercial messages? It makes no sense.

Bad news…

The New York Times’ first native ad page is seen in the screenshot above, and although it has a line of text, “Paid for and posted by Dell” it has New York Times branding all over the page.

The next time New York Times reporters write about Dell its readers will think it’s paid for by Dell. This is very bad news for both parties.

A good story on a public company, written by New York Times reporters, has tremendous value: in gaining new customers, pleasing shareholders, and raising the morale of staff.

Now, the value of such a hard won article will be lost because readers’ trust is being eroded with each native ad they see — even if the article were to state: “This was not paid for and posted by Dell.”

Labeling something “Paid for by Idiot Corp.” does not protect a publication from the loss of trust.

A banner ad is a banner ad, we see it, we know it. Content that looks like trusted editorial content fools the mind of the reader. Which is the entire point of buying native advertising! It’s deception! Why would a newspaper want to publish deceptive content?! 

Bean counters…

The New York Times has sold its future for a handful of beans. The trouble is that we don’t live in a magical world of beanstalks and golden eggs.

A handful of beans satisfies the bean counters for a few financial quarters but it won’t cover the huge cost to the newspaper’s credibility and viability.

Selling trust is foolish because it’s not a renewable commodity. Twice bitten, then thrice it’s gone. It’s the same way between people.

The expanding use of native advertising will accelerate the demise of the media industry. Newspapers and marketers need to come to their senses and stop this practice now. 

- - -

Please return for my interview with Peyman Nilforoush, CEO of InPowered, and co-founder of the Netshelter advertising network. He feels as strongly as I do about the harm native advertising will have on trusted publishers. 

- - -

The New York Times management has a history of being clueless about important trends affecting their revenues. I remember being shocked about ten years ago, looking at the home page of the New York Times, and all the ads were served by Google’s AdSense network.

This is what shocked me: Underneath each Google ad was a line of text: “Click here to advertise on this site." The click went to Google.

The New York Times had given away its customer relationship to Google — to another media company!!! What a foolish move.

Ah, but Google is a tech company, thought the New York Times. Eric Schmidt brokered that AdSense deal but the deal hid a masquerade. Google was never a tech company.

Oracle, Intel, and many others are tech companies. They sell tech. Google has always been a media company. It makes money from publishing. It uses Internet technologies to publish pages of content with advertising. That’s what a media company does. That’s not what a tech company does.

The New York Times failed to see Google in its true colors until many years later. Today, its management continues to misunderstand important trends in its industry, and it continues to make bad business decisions. We are rapidly losing an important national resource. 

Topic: Emerging Tech

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  • End of the world?

    I'm not sure this is the end of the world, nor am I convinced this is something particularly "new." While I haven't seen the ad in question, from the screenshot it looks like your typical "sponsored content" you sometimes see in publications (online or not). But consider that the print edition of the Times has been selling full-page ads (advocacy ads that read like articles, in many cases) since long before the paper went digital.

    Journalism of the sort the Times does, all around the world, is expensive. Without a revenue stream, it will all simply die. Would I prefer there were no sponsored content? Of course. Heck, even traditional ads if any sort compromise the journalistic integrity of any serious publication (which is why Consumer Reports, for instance, has always refused to take paid advertising) but I realize that you're not going to have reporters on location in Syria, Russia, China and Burma without serious financial commitment. So as long as it's clear that what we're reading is an ad (it says so at the top of the page, it's written in a different font from normal stories, and such) I'm grudgingly OK with it.
  • NYT Approach Makes Perfect Sense

    And once again there is confusion over who the "customers" of a company are stemming from confusion over the actual product. Because of bean counting MBAs, a company's primary "product" is profit to Wall Street (assuming a publicly traded company). In the case of media outlets like the NYT, Facebook, TV, Google, etc, etc, etc, a second tier customer is the advertiser. (The outlet delivers eyeballs to the the advertisement.)

    The primary job of the NYT (and the rest of the media) is no longer providing information to the readership, rather providing cash and eyeballs to their customers.
  • Value-free content?

    What this actually does in a wider context is to increase the general perception that the value of content is trending towards zero. In other words, it should be free.

    Unlike every other product or service that organisations and individuals are willing to pay for, content is viewed as something that need not be paid for - and if Dell or whomever pays for it instead, its value (in terms of its independence, or truthfulness) is perceived as even less than zero.

    Tom is making a great point - but I think the wider consequences are even worse than he's painted.
    Manek Dubash
  • You must be joking?

    The world's worst idea? You must be joking. Native ads are proving to be a responsible and effective way for advertisers to plug their message while actually giving readers content of value. This is about as close as we're going to get to a win-win in advertising during the digital age. What you're not accounting for, as well, is the fact that consumers actually prefer native ads to banner ads and other commonly used ad units. So complain if you will, but consumers are happy, and companies that have brilliantly entered native advertising (especially with a focus on mobile) like Airpush, Twitter (MoPub), and a growing number of top publishers are going to make huge money while providing a form of advertising that - for once - is more useful than it is annoying.