Add The Wall Street Journal to the list of publications going native; WSJ just announced they will be serving up native advertising alongside their regular editorial content.
The news is groan-worthy for a couple of reasons.
“The problem with the sponsored ads is that some people view them as deceptive; that they’re designed to intentionally confuse the reader,” writes Chris O’Shea in FishbowlNY. “Gerard Baker, editor of the Journal, doesn’t think that will be an issue,” O’Shea continues.
Well, that’s great that he thinks this, but Baker is staking a lot on that assumption.
According to Peter Kafka of Re/Code, “very few people are looking at this stuff. Or, more precisely: People who look at this stuff can’t wait to stop reading it.”
He bases that statement on web analytics from Chartbeat, whose CEO Tony Hails says that “while 71 percent of surfers will stick with a ‘real’ article for more than 15 seconds,” only 24 percent of the same readers stick with native content that long.
“What this suggests is that brands are paying for — and publishers are driving traffic to — content that does not capture the attention of its visitors or achieve the goals of its creators,” Haile remarks.
In other words, readers aren’t as clueless about quality content as native advertisers think they are. Readers don’t like the stuff.
For publishers, the potential downside is huge. By diluting your content with native advertising that does not appeal to your readers, you risk your reputation as a quality content provider.
(Let’s not forget the epic Atlantic native advertising debacle, which serves as just one example of how this scheme can backfire for publishers.)
Your worth as a publisher is predicated by your worth in the eyes of your readers. Underestimate them at your own risk.