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BizReport : Advertising archives : June 22, 2015

Consumers hate sponsored content but realize it is how they get free news

According to a new report from Reuters, it is not at all surprising that publishers are turning to native advertising and sponsored content in the face of increased use of ad blocking technology. But, what do consumers think of the shift?

by Helen Leggatt

According to Reuters' 'Digital News Report', which investigates attitudes towards advertising, 39% of Internet users in the U.K. and 47% in the U.S. use ad blocking technology to de-clutter their browsing experience and do away with annoying ads. Among younger users that figure is even higher.

The study concludes that consumers are particularly frustrated with "advertising and the interruption it causes to their reading experience", with one focus group participant saying "online ads are obtrusive, obnoxious, annoying". A third (39%) of Internet users in the U.K. say they ignore ads, as do 30% in the U.S. Furthermore, 31% of U.K. users said they actively avoid sites where ads interfere with their experience, as do one in two in the U.S.

It's little wonder, then, that publishers are increasingly turning to native advertising. Yet, found Reuters, more than a third of U.K. and U.S. consumers expressed disappointment, or felt deceived, after reading an article they later discovered was sponsored. Overall, half said they dislike sponsored content and for a quarter sponsored content reflects badly on the news publisher.

According to one focus group participant, sponsored content "makes me mad! It's presented as news" while another thinks "it's a dirty way of getting your attention. Which is by lying".

"It is clear that consumers want to see clear labeling and signposting of paid-for content," says Reuters. "Readers don't like to feel they are being deceived; however, if they know up-front that a brand may have influenced the content, consumers are more accepting. To help maintain levels of trust, the language used should be standardized across news sites as much as possible."

However, there is an air of resignation among Internet users. According to Reuters' report, "Half say they don't like sponsored content but accept this as part of how they get free news".

With publishers missing out on billions of dollars due to ad blocking, a former senior manager at Google has created software that he believes will help eliminate the threat. Ben Barokas, who has co-founded Sourcepoint, says his method involves a unique model in which there is a "transparent transaction" between the content creators and the consumer.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: ad blocking, advertising, native advertising, news, publishing

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