A new study from Contently reveals that people really don’t understand what it means when they come across a post online that’s tagged with the term “Sponsored Content.”
Plus, many participants said a site loses its credibility when it runs a post like this.
Contently surveyed 542 people and found that many readers could not even agree on a definition for the term.
The highest percentage of people, 48 per cent, believe it means that a sponsor “paid for and influenced the article,” while 20 per cent agreed that it means the news outlet wrote the story “but a sponsor’s money allowed it to happen.”
Others believe that it means a sponsor paid to have its name attached to a post that already existed or that the sponsor wrote the post.
The confusion is expected however, because many publishers have a different meaning for the term, and some individual publishers even have multiple definitions of the phrase.
Sometimes it’s content that has been written by the advertiser, or sometimes they have had help from the news outlet.
For instance, when The New York Times partnered with Dell earlier this year, Dell picked what stories it wanted to run while The New York Times assigned them out to freelancers. In another instance, like this “Orange is the new Black” sponsored post, one of the news outlet’s editors wrote a story that was sponsored by Netflix.
Regardless, the advertiser pays to have the post featured on the website and it is marked as content that has been paid for.
What is probably most concerning though, is that Contently’s survey found that more than half of its respondents don’t trust sponsored content and actually prefer to see banner ads.
67 per cent of people said they felt deceived by a website when they discovered that something they were reading was actually sponsored.
Further, 54 per cent of respondents said that they don’t trust these posts and 59 per cent said they feel a news site actually loses credibility in their minds because of sponsored posts. This finding comes at a time when advertisers spent $US2.4 billion on native ads, according to Fortune, not a great sign for publishers.
But Contently, a site that works with brands to create sponsored content, concludes its study on an optimistic note, citing examples of sites that have reported success with this method of advertising from The New York Times to Mashable. So while publishers may have a ways to go before figuring out how to created sponsored posts that people will like and trust, there’s still hope that they will get there someday.
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