Native ads: presented by HBO

HBO did not pay for this piece to be written, but had they, it might have turned out something like this. Informative, but clearly pushing the reader towards a certain opinion.

Looking for a fun way to learn about the hot-button issues of today? Hoping to dazzle friends with topical and hilarious conversation?

Consider checking out the delightfully funny and insightfully witty show Last Week Tonight, hosted by comedian John Oliver.

John Oliver produces hilarious masterpieces every week, covering everything from net neutrality to televangelists. His content always finds the right balance between funny and informative, and discusses important issues many don’t stop to consider.

John Oliver discusses a native ad sponsored by GE Energy. Photo courtesy ScribbleLive

If this sounds of interest, make sure to log on to HBO Sunday nights at 11 o’clock to catch latest episode. Still not convinced? Here’s a short synopsis of a popular segment from last season on native advertisements, a topic to which Oliver’s clip is partly responsible for bringing the attention of a wider audience.

Native ads are increasingly relevant to anyone who reads news online, but they are especially present in the lives of young people (like the author) who spend a considerable (some may say worrying) amount of time on Buzzfeed.

Native ads, sometime considered branded or sponsored content, are essentially advertisements formatted to look like regular news or video content. Oftentimes, the only indicator that a piece is sponsored is a small phrase in the title or at the top of the article.

Truthfully, the different between full-on native ads and pieces that are considered “content marketing” is hard to distinguish, and it’s suggested that the reader research beyond what this article will cover.

In any case, it’s clear that the line between ads and news, a line that has been integral to free and fair journalism since the creation of the United States, is becoming increasingly blurred.

Some native ads are easy to recognize from their content or title, like an article published in The Atlantic in 2013 reflecting on the Church of Scientology’s “milestone year.”

However, many can almost pass as actual journalism, such as an article by The New York Times about women’s prisons, sponsored by the TV show Orange is the New Black.

In fact, some native ads may look just like this article.

Most Americans don’t regoznie native ads as advertisements. In a 2015 study at the University of Georgia, only seven percent of participants were able to recognize that a test piece was branded.

Moreover, this sponsored content is everywhere. Buzzfeed, one of the most popular sites on the internet, makes “100 percent of their revenue from branded content,” according to an interview with the company’s CEO.

News consumers may think they’re savvy enough to avoid native ads and keep their news unbiased. If you are one of those people, ask yourself: did this “Native Ad” feel much different from a typical news piece? Would you have been able to tell the difference?

Posted by Hope Anderson

Hope Anderson, senior, is a Senior Editor and a waffle enthusiast. In her spare time she watches British dramas and eats off-brand organic snack products.