How Fake News is Helping to Kill Off Native Ads

They may be the trend of the moment, but common sense tells us native advertising isn’t going to work in the long run, especially in this hyper-sensitive media environment.

Is 2017 the year native advertising will lose all credibility? Some say yes, and we can thank the plethora of fake news stories for helping to seal its fate, according to Toni Fitzgerald in Medialife Magazine.

Fitzgerald asserts that, even though native advertising is growing rapidly (she cites an IHS report that predicts up to two-thirds of all mobile display advertising will be native in four years), publishers shouldn’t bet on that boom lasting.

“Native advertising is based on the idea that content disguised as editorial is more engaging to readers than traditional display advertising,” Fitzgerald writes. “But there’s no evidence that’s true, and common sense says it’s not.”

Her prediction? “It will sink in in 2017. The native ad boom will cool and advertisers will move on to the next ad fad that emerges.”

In addition to the usual objections – lack of quality content, the risk to a brand’s credibility, and the lack of engagement that we’re already seeing – Fitzgerald raises a new reason to expect the practice to fall out of favor.

“Fake news is certainly the story of December, if not the entire year, in media. It’s put everyone–readers, publishers, advertisers–on guard against stories that don’t pass the smell test,” she writes.

“Native advertising is fake news under a different name, nothing more. It’s not hard to foresee native ads getting mistaken for fake news and being caught in an ensuing backlash.”

In that light, the likelihood of native advertising offering up enough of a return to be worth the investment becomes even slimmer. And even though publishers love the revenue stream, and advertising partners love the readership base they can access, the readers are the ones who will ultimately decide. As they become more discerning and less likely to bite, the entire concept lacks teeth.